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German billionaire family to donate €10 million after discovering Nazi past

With wealth estimated at €33 billion, the Reimann family is believed to be Germany’s second richest.

Family spokesman Peter Harf, who heads the Reimann’s JAB Holding Company
Family spokesman Peter Harf, who heads the Reimann’s JAB Holding Company
Image: Soeren Stache via AP

MORE THAN 70 years after the end of World World II, one of Germany’s richest families has admitted to its dark links with Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Spokesman of the Reimann family, Peter Harf, told Bild am Sonntag of plans to give €10 million to charity after learning of their elders’ support for the Nazis and their company’s use of forced labour during the war.

“Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty. The two entrepreneurs have both passed away, they belonged actually in prison,” said Harf.

Albert Reimann senior died in 1954 and his son in 1984. 

They did not talk about the Nazi era and the family had thought that all of the company’s connection to the Nazis had been revealed in a 1978 report, Harf said.

The company they left behind, JAB Holding, is today a behemoth that owns household brands ranging from Clearasil to Calgon.

With wealth estimated at €33 billion, the Reimann family is believed to be Germany’s second richest. 

Harf said the family began digging into their dark past in the 2000s, and in 2014 decided to commission a historian to produce a thorough study into their ancestors’ ties to Nazism.

The family plans to make public a full account when the book by the historian, Paul Erker of Munich University, is finished, said Harf.

Quoting letters and archival documents, Bild am Sonntag said Reimann senior was a willing donor to Hitler’s SS as early as 1931.

His company was in 1941 deemed a “crucial” firm in the war, as it produced items for the Wehrmacht and the armaments industry.

In 1943, the company was using as many as 175 forced labourers, and employed a foreman who was known for his cruel treatment of the workers.

Harf, who confirmed the conclusions drawn by the Bild report, said there had been no known efforts to provide any compensation to the forced labourers.

The historian presented his preliminary findings to the Reimann children and grandchildren, as well as Harf, several weeks ago, he said.

We were all ashamed and turned as white as the wall. There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting.

“But we have since talked about what we can do now,” he said.

“We want to do more and donate €10 million to a suitable organisation.”

Many of Germany’s biggest companies have over the decades confronted their Third Reich history.

Among them is Volkswagen, which used concentration camp internees and prisoners of war as slave labour in its factories during the war.

In 1938, Hitler himself laid the foundation stone for the first Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg in northern Germany, tasked with building an affordable car for all Germans — which would go on to become the iconic Beetle.

© AFP 2019 with reporting by Associated Press

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