BMW’s Owners Were Hitler’s Close Friends
Ever since its founding, Bavarian Motor Works, or BMW, have been known for their high-quality luxury automobiles, and until 1945, for their aircraft engines. The company, which today produces luxury cars and motorcycles, is a multinational with plants in Germany, the US, UK, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. Less known is that its major shareholders, the Quandt family, were close friends and admirers of Hitler and the Nazis.
After a 2007 TV documentary aired unpleasant revelations about the company’s Nazi-era activities, the Quandt family empire launched an investigation which reached troubling conclusion about BMW’s Nazi past. In a nutshell, the Quandt family patriarch, Gunther Quandt, and his son Herbert, were up to their necks in collaborating with the Nazi regime.
To their credit, the current generation of Quandts, unlike most other companies with Nazi ties, eventually came clean and refrained from ducking the issue or sugarcoating things. They commissioned a respected German historian to research the company’s past, and set him loose on BMW’s and the Quandt family’s archives and files. The result was a 1200 page report, which concluded that “[t]he Quandts were linked inseparably with the crimes of the Nazis … The family patriarch was part of the regime“.
Among other things, the Quandts profited from the Nazis’ “Aryanization Program”, which dispossessed Jews of their property and turned it over to Germans approved by the new regime. Taking advantage of their friendship with Hitler and their excellent Nazi connections, BMW’s owners took over dozens of businesses that were seized from Jews and handed over to the Quandts.
So instrumental was BMW and the Quandts to the Third Reich’s military that Hitler Named Gunther Quandt a Wehrwirtschaftsführer, or “Leader of the Defense Economy”. During WWII, at least 50,000 slave workers from concentration camps toiled in BMW and Quandt family enterprises to manufacture weapons and fulfill armaments contracts. Many of the slave laborers died from the inhumane working conditions. Some from avoidable accidents, some from neglect, some were starved, and others were executed for workplace infractions.