Daimler opened up its archives for research into its Nazi affiliations for one book published in 1990 and another in 1998. The Quandt family behind BMW had its public catharsis in 2007. The ties between the National Socialists and the Porsche and Piech families have almost rendered the Volkswagen Beetle some kind of cult tchotchke of the Third Reich. And it's not just automakers called in for cleansing: Deutsche Bank credit helped build Auschwitz, Hugo Boss made Nazi uniforms, patriarch of food and frozen pizza giant Dr. Oetker volunteered for the Waffen-SS. As one historian said, for any business that wanted to stay in business during the war, "no company was really clean. Everyone had to resort to slave labor when their own workers were fighting at the front."

Audi is the latest to go public with findings from an in-depth study of the Nazi-affiliated past of Auto Union, its predecessor company, and the "Father of Auto Union" Dr. Richard Bruhn, the man who headed it pre- and post-war. Commissioned by Audi, written by Audi's history department head Martin Kukowski and University of Chemnitz historian Rudolf Boch, its findings are just as severe as those already heard so often over the past 20 years. Among other discoveries, the study found that not only did Brun manage the use of more than 3,700 forced labor camp workers from seven SS-run camps, 16,500 forced laborers that didn't live in camps worked in two more factories; Bruhn wanted even more laborers but couldn't get them because of the battlefield situation; and that Auto Union had "moral responsibility" for roughly 4,500 workers killed at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. The study found that disabled workers were routinely sent to the camp and executed there.

Audi works council head Peter Mosch said, "I'm very shocked by the scale of the involvement of the former Auto Union leadership in the system of forced and slave labor. I was not aware of the extent." The company is figuring out how it will respond to the findings, so far working on changing the online profile of Dr. Bruhn on its history pages on Audi sites around the world, and considering stripping Brun's name from the street that bears it and from company offerings like pension plans. If you can read German or can work Google Translate, Wirtschaftswoche has a long piece on the study and its conclusions.


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  • 61 Comments
      SquareFour
      • 6 Months Ago
      Companies are not living entities. I know, duh, right, but it's an important point to keep in mind. It was the people running Auto Union who committed the atrocities. They're mostly dead and buried now, and I seriously doubt anyone currently running Audi has plans to enslave workers or exterminate the disabled. Probably the "right" thing to do is stop honoring anyone involved in the WW2 crimes, and for the rest of us to base our brand opinions on what the company is doing now while never forgetting what happened.
      Jobs
      • 6 Months Ago
      One should face the history and learn, for stepping into a better future. If one can revise the history, some could make up history. Unfortunately, commercial used to make thing up and advertise with the same attitude, Audi just another one
      Heinz Richter
      • 6 Months Ago
      Of course nobody is considering the fact that Mr. Ford was quite antisemitic, as was Mr. Edison. But they were American, so they are excused. What about the American companies that gladly used slave labor in the Us, and still do overseas now, and what about the atrocities heaped upon the native Americans. Those here that so smugly boast of their superiority, your past is just as dirty as most anyone else's.
        DavidG
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Heinz Richter
        Admit nothing, deny everything, and defeat is inevitable make counter accusations. Well played Heinz...well played.
        Technoir
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Heinz Richter
        Edison was just a total piece of s... according to the people who worked with him, and who were ripped off.
      Ducman69
      • 6 Months Ago
      In other news, a Jewish synagogue just did historical research and apologises for its part in killing Jesus. Enough already, its 2014, enough time has passed Audi. Don't worry about it.
        elanjacobs
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ducman69
        And just what part did the Jews have?
        knightrider_6
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ducman69
        You are comparing a horrible event from the past to something written in a stupid book
      ecdrumguy37
      • 6 Months Ago
      Speaking on behalf of my Jewish family (who currently owns and has owned Audis for years), we're not surprised and we're not gonna stop buying Audis.
      Walt
      • 6 Months Ago
      Unfortunate that there isn't the same level of media hand wringing and self examination over the atrocities of Stalin and Mao.
      x percent
      • 6 Months Ago
      Audi should be commended for confronting their disturbing past. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
      GOVT MOTOR
      • 6 Months Ago
      Oh wow ! I am so shocked that this German company was involved with Nazi regime, it's not even shocking anymore.
      GOVT MOTOR
      • 6 Months Ago
      Audi should close the business as soon as possible. Hopefully someone takes over and name it "Quattro" Audi you are disgusting!
      Miguel Louzada
      • 6 Months Ago
      Type your comment here' As one historian said, for any business that wanted to stay in business during the war, "no company was really clean. Everyone had to resort to slave labor when their own workers were fighting at the front." ' This says everything. There's no point in blaming these companies for the atrocities committed 70 years ago by Hitler's regime, most of them were just trying to survive, stopping production because they didn't agree with the reich's actions just meant death by the SS. It's the same as blaming a 30yo german for the holocaust just because his grandfather was in the german army.
        nrd01
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Miguel Louzada
        True, it's important to be able to move on. However, there is precedent for a German company that conducted itself "better" during the Holocaust - Bosch. They employed slaves, but they worked against the system and one of the executives (Hans Walz) spent company money getting some who were marked for death out of the country. He saved a few hundred lives. So, admissions like this should further the recognition of those who did do the right thing at personal risk.
      knightrider_6
      • 6 Months Ago
      The people who dismiss Holocast and slavery and something that happened long time ago are the same people who insist on maintaing "traditional values" and want government to make rules based on a 1500 year old book.
      Jerome Nicholson
      • 6 Months Ago
      And in other news: Volkswagen officials were shocked to learn that Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the developer of the original VW Beetle, actually knew Adolf Hitler!
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