On 100th Anniversary of Founding, BMW Expresses Regret for Having Used Forced Labor to Supply Nazis With Arms
German car manufacturer Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) expressed regret on Monday for using forced labor to help supply weapons components to the Nazis during WWII, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.
Under the National Socialist regime in the 1930s and ’40s, BMW operated exclusively as a supplier to the German arms industry, the company said in a statement. As demand for its aero engines increased, BMW recruited forced laborers, convicts and prisoners from concentration camps to assist in manufacturing them.
‘To this day, the enormous suffering this caused and the fate of many forced laborers remains a matter of the most profound regret,” BMW said.
BMW issued the statement on the 100th anniversary of its founding in Munich in 1916, at the height of WWI. The company celebrated with an event in the city, where it unveiled a new “Vision Vehicle” concept car. The futuristic automobile has a spacious interior and self-driving features.
The statement and celebration also come days after BMW and Rolls-Royce became involved in a dispute over whether the UK should remain in the European Union.
According to the Daily Mail, BMW’s ties to the Nazi regime are linked to those of the Quandt family — major shareholders in BMW credited with making the company a success. The family’s ties to the Nazis were exposed in a 2007 German TV documentary showing company files from the 12-year period of the Third Reich. Subsequent research and studies showed that a patriarch of the family became a Nazi Party member on May 1, 1933, a month after Hitler rose to power. Afterwards that same patriarch divorced his wife, who went on to marry Nazi party propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The couple committed suicide together after killing their six children in Hitler’s bunker in 1945.
Leading historian Joachim Scholtyseck concluded, “The Quandts were linked inseparably with the crimes of the Nazis. The family patriarch was part of the regime.” In 2011, after years of silence, the Quandt family dynasty admitted using slave labor, taking over Jewish firms and doing business with members of the Nazi party during WWII.
In 1999, the German car maker became a founder of Remembrance, Responsibility and Future, a foundation dedicated to the compensation of former forced laborers. BMW says that in recent years it has been “actively engaging in efforts to promote openness, respect and understanding between cultures.”