- Guenther Quandt was a member of the Nazi party and benefited from its 'Aryanisation' programme by taking over Jewish firms
- His wife, Magda Behrend Rietschel, later divorced him and married Joseph Goebbels, with whom she died in Hitler's bunker in 1945
- Quandt factories employed 50,000 slave labourers to churn out weapons and ammunition for the Nazis during World War Two, making the family very rich
- Family still retains majority of shares in luxury car maker
|Family secret: Guenther Quandt, whose family |
now owns BMW, used slave labourers during
World War Two in his weapons factories in
The dynasty behind the BMW luxury car marker has admitted, after decades of silence, using slave labour, taking over Jewish firms and doing business with the highest echelons of the Nazi party during World War Two.
Gabriele Quandt, whose grandfather Guenther employed an estimated 50,000 forced labourers in his arms factories, producing ammunition, rifles, artillery and U-boat batteries, said it was 'wrong' for the family to ignore this chapter of its history.
He spoke out after an in-depth study by Bonn-based historian Joachim Scholtyseck, commissioned by the family, that concluded Guenther Quandt and his son Herbert were responsible for numerous Nazi injustices.
It found Guenther acquired companies through the Nazi programme of 'Aryanisation' of Jewish-owned firms.
Herbert Quandt was 'part of the system', son Stefan Quandt said after the conclusion of the three-year study - forced on the family by public outrage over a German TV documentary - compiled using company files from the 12-year period of the Third Reich.
The Quandt family bought into BMW 15 years after the War.
The study shows Guenther became a Nazi Party member on May 1, 1933, a month after Adolf Hitler achieved supreme power in Germany.
But he had long used a network of party officials and Wehrmacht officers to build up contacts for lucrative state contracts.
Married to Magda Behrend Rietschel, Guenther was divorced by her in 1929 although they remained on friendly terms.
She went on to marry the 'poison dwarf' of the Nazi party, the propaganda maestro Joseph Goebbels, and would die with him - after murdering their six children - in Hitler's bunker in 1945.
The company grew rich in the Nazi era. In 1937, Hitler bestowed on Guenther the title Wehrwirtschaftsführer - leader of the armament economy - and his business supplied weapons using slave labourers from concentration camps in at least three factories.
Hundreds of these labourers died.
An execution area to murder those who displeased their masters was found in one of his plants in Hannover and the study mentions the fate of a Polish man who was hanged at another plant in front of 50 other inmates.
The study showed that the Quandt firms also used Russian POWs as slave labourers and that Guenther and Herbert knew about them, detailing their dispersion among their empire from the company HQ in Berlin.
Herbert even employed Ukrainian slaves on his weekend retreat outside the Reich capital.
Guenther was described as an 'opportunist' who enthusiastically helped the regime to rid Berlin industries of Jewish workers before the start of the war.
This was despite his numerous contacts with Jewish bankers in the years before the Nazis began their climb to power.
|Admission: Stefan Quandt, pictured with his |
mother Johanna, has said his family - including
father Herbert - was 'part of the Nazi system'
He was also 'unscrupulous' in his take-overs of Jewish firms which were forcibly sold for a pittance to loyal German industrialists such as himself.
'The family patriarch was part of the Nazi regime', judged the historian in the 1,200 page study.
'The Quandts connected themselves inseparably with the crimes of the National Socialists.'
The Quandts were pressured into commissioning the study after a 2007 TV documentary in Germany entitled The Silence Of The Quandt Family.
Five days later, as the press headlines about a fortune built on blood piled up, the reclusive family announced its full backing for the research project.
At the time it said: 'The accusations that have been raised against our family have moved us.
'We recognize that in our history as a German business family, the years 1933 to 1945 have not been sufficiently cleared up.'
BMW, of which the Quandts became major shareholders 15 years after the war, was not implicated in the documentary.
'We were treated terribly and had to drink water from the toilets. We were also whipped,' said Takis Mylopoulos, a forced labourer who worked in Quandt's Hannover plant.
In 1946 Guenther Quandt was arrested and interned. To the surprise of many, he was judged to be a 'Mitlaufer', or fellow traveller - namely someone who accepted the Nazi ideology but did not take an active part in crimes.
He was released in January 1948.
|Business interests: The BMW factory in Cowley, Oxfordshire. The|
Quandt family still owns the majority of shares in luxury car
One of the prosecutors in the Nuremberg trials, Benjamin Ferencz, now says that if today's evidence against him had been presented to the court at the time,'Quandt would have been charged with the same offences as the directors of IG Farben' - the makers of the gas used to murder the Jews at Auschwitz.
Quandt was able to re-install himself in the supervisory boards of various German firms such as Deutsche Bank. He also became an honorary citizen of the University in Frankfurt in 1951.
He died on holiday in Cairo on December 30, 1954.