10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany

Khalid Elhassan - July 16, 2018

Germany’s Nazi era was one of the darkest chapters in human history. Fortunately for mankind, Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” lasted only twelve years before getting stomped into the dirt. Still, Germany was one of the world’s leading economies, which meant that many companies – some of them still thriving today – were more than happy to do business with the Nazis.

Following are ten famous companies and their ties to Nazi Germany.

Hugo Boss Was an Active Nazi Who Produced Uniforms For the Brown Shirts, SS, and Hitler Youth

In 2013, comedian Russell Brand was kicked out of a GQ magazine’s Men of the Year Awards shindig, after cracking jokes about the event’s sponsor, Hugo Boss, and its Nazi ties. As Brand put it: “If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss, who made uniforms for the Nazis. …But they looked fu*king fantastic, let’s face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality“. Understandably, Hugo Boss’ executives were not thrilled that all they got for the £250,000 they spent sponsoring the event was another dose of bad publicity about their company’s Nazi past. Whether Russell Brand’s humor was in good taste or bad, he was not wrong about the fashion designer’s Nazi ties.

Today, Hugo Boss is a global luxury fashion brand, famous for its flashy ties and classic suits, with about 1100 company-owned stores worldwide as of 2016. There was even a time when it seemed that no yuppie was cool unless his wardrobe contained Hugo Boss shirts, suits, socks, sunglasses, cologne, and man-thongs. Less cool was the history of the company’s founder, fashion designer Hugo Ferdinand Boss (1885 – 1948). He was an enthusiastic Nazi who devoted his talents to making Hitler’s goons look as snazzy as possible.

Boss founded a textile factory as a family-run business in 1923, and one of his early big contracts was to supply uniforms to the Nazi party’s SA storm troopers, or Brown Shirts. He eventually joined the party, and when the Nazis took power in 1933, Boss, as an active party member and enthusiastic supporter of its policies, was on the inside track when the new regime began awarding clothing contracts. Before long, Boss’ company was producing, in addition to the Brown Shirts’ uniforms, the black outfits of the SS, and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Uniforms made by Hugo Boss for the Nazis. Pinterest

Production continued and expanded during World War II. By then, Hugo Boss was outfitting the SS, SA, Hitler Youth, German rail workers, postal employees, as well as the German army, navy, and air force. As the conflict raged, Hugo Boss made use of hundreds of slave workers in his factory, mostly from Poland and France, to meet increased wartime production demands.

The slave laborers’ working conditions were dreadful. They were insufficiently fed, received inadequate medical care, and were made to live in unsanitary barracks infested with lice and fleas. During air raids, they were not allowed into shelters but had to remain in the factory. Those who attempted to flee were sent to even more dreadful places if captured, such as Auschwitz.

After the war, during the Denazification process, Hugo Boss was heavily fined, stripped of his voting rights, and prohibited from running a business. He appealed and succeeded in reducing the penalties, but the business ban remained. So he was forced to transfer ownership and management of the company to his son-in-law. In the years since, Hugo Boss has, understandably, not been keen on celebrating its founder or discussing its prewar history. In 1999, the company finally agreed to contribute to a fund to compensate its former slave workers.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Evolution of the VW logo, from its initial winged swastika theme, to today. Madisyn Drum

Volkswagen Was Founded by the Nazis, and the Cute Beetle Was Hitler’s Dream Car

In 2016, Volkswagen took the lead from Toyota as the world’s biggest car manufacturer, producing over 6 million automobiles, and employing 626,000 people worldwide. The company, whose iconic VW Beetle is so cute and popular it became the star of Disney’s Herbie the Love Bug movie franchise, came a long way from its Nazi origins. Indeed, the VW Beetle owes its creation to two men: engineer Ferdinand Porsche, and Fuhrer Adolph Hitler.

In the 1930s, Germany’s automobile industry was geared towards luxury cars that were beyond the means of most Germans. There was no domestic equivalent of the mass-produced and affordable Ford Model-T, so average Germans had to make do with motorcycles for personal transport, or do without. Most did without, and only 2 percent of Germans owned a car.

Such a low rate of car ownership made Germany a huge potential market for an affordable automobile, and many sought to take the lead by launching “people’s car” projects (volks wagen in German). One such was Ferdinand Porsche, a well-known racecar and luxury automobile designer, who sought to interest manufacturers in his design for a small and affordable family car. In 1933, Porsche built his concept car, a forerunner of the VW Beetle, which he named the Volksauto. It had a torsion suspension, and a beetle shape, with a rounded front hood for better aerodynamics to compensate in part for a small air-cooled rear engine.

After the Nazis came into power in 1933, Hitler jumped on the “people’s car” bandwagon, and in February of 1933, just weeks after becoming Reich Chancellor, he announced plans for a “people’s motorization”. In 1934, the Fuhrer issued a decree for the production of a basic car capable of transporting two adults and three children at 62 mph, while costing only 990 Reichsmarks – about U$ 400 in the 1930s. Hitler fell in love with Ferdinand Porsche’s design, but Germany’s auto industry could not produce a car for that price in its existing plants. So Hitler ordered up a state-owned factory to produce the Volkswagen.

Paid for through a savings plan of about 5 Reischmark a week at a time when the average weekly income was about 32 RM, the new car was within the financial means of most Germans. Construction of the new factory began in May of 1938 in a new town purpose-built for Volkswagen workers, Wolfsburg – Germany’s richest city today, with a GDP per capita of about U$130,000 because of its thriving auto industry. However, only a few cars had been built when WWII began in 1939, and the factory retooled from consumer cars to military manufacture.

After the war, Volkswagen resumed civilian production. The company was offered to American, British, and French car manufacturers, all of whom rejected it – including Ford, who declined even though it was offered to them free of charge. By 1946, VW was producing about 1000 car a month, and by 1948, it was becoming an icon of West Germany’s economic revival, and beginning its rise to global automotive dominance.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Ferdinand Porsche demonstrating a Volkswagen to Hitler in 1938. Flickr

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
German Fanta ads during WWII. Timeline

Fanta Was Born in Nazi Germany During World War II

Fanta, one of Coca-Cola’s most popular products, comes in over 70 flavors today and is sold in 188 countries. It was first concocted and manufactured in Nazi Germany during World War II. Its story begins in the years leading up to World War II, when Coca-Cola’s greatest international success story was its German branch, Coca-Cola Deutschland (Coca-Cola GmbH). Germans loved Coke and consumed it at such a rate that record sales were set year after year in the Third Reich. The German branch flourished under American-born director Ray Powers, and continued to flourish under his successor, Max Keith, after Powers died in a car accident in 1938. By the time WWII broke out in 1939, the soft drink giant had 43 bottling plants and over 600 local distributors.

The war disrupted that love affair between Germans and Coke. Keith communicated with the parent company that he would try to keep operations running in Germany, but some key ingredients for producing Coca-Cola syrup could only be obtained from overseas. That was a problem, because Germany was, by and large, cut off from overseas trade by the British Royal Navy. No Coca-Cola syrup meant no Coca-Cola, so production started grinding to a halt at the company’s bottling plants.

The halt did not last long, however, as Coca-Cola Deutschland cast about for an alternative soft drink to Coke, using readily available domestic ingredients. After some trial and error, they came up with a new soda made from the odds and ends left over from other food industries, such as apple fiber from cider presses, and whey, a cheese byproduct. For sweetener, the company initially used saccharin, before securing the right to use 3.5 percent beet sugar in 1941. While the standard Fanta today is an orange drink, there was no standard flavor during WWII, as the company used whichever fruits happened to be available at the time.

The new soft drink got its name when Max Keith held a brainstorming session with his subordinates to come up with something catchy. Keith urged his employees to use their imaginations (fantasie in German), and one of them, a salesman named Joe Knipp, piped up with “Fanta! Fanta proved popular enough with Germans during the war – selling over three million cases in 1943, for example – to keep the company’s plants operational and its employees busy.

Contra the myth that Coca-Cola directed operations during the war, the parent company’s executives in Atlanta had lost contact with Coca-Cola Deutschland, and did not know whether Keith was working for them or for the Nazis. Nonetheless, although the parent company’s HQ neither controlled nor directed Keith during the war, his actions safeguarded the company’s interests in Germany during that period.

After the war, an investigation into Keith’s unsupervised actions during the conflict concluded that he had not been a Nazi, despite being pressured into joining the party. An honorable man, he refrained from taking over the company’s operations for his own profits, when he easily could have. Instead, he kept meticulous accounts and turned the profits, as well as the new drink, Fanta, over to Coca-Cola after the war.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Hitler touring a BMW plant in Munich in 1935. New York Post

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.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Kodak had troubling Nazi ties. Men’s Corner

Kodak Did Business With Nazi Germany During the War, and Profited From the Use of Slave Labor

Throughout most of the 20th century, Kodak was a corporate giant and the world’s leading photographic film company, before its failure to keep abreast of digital camera technology doomed it to relative oblivion. What few knew for decades after the end of World War II was that Kodak had collaborated with Nazi Germany, and traded with the Germans even after America had entered the war.

Kodak’s Nazi ties were revealed in the early 2000s, when evidence recovered from the National Archives detailed the extent of the company’s collaboration with the Third Reich. It was conducted via the company’s branches in neutral Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal, all of which were directly controlled by the company’s headquarters in Rochester, NY, and all of which did business with Germany.

Acting through its branches in neutral European countries, Kodak bought supplies from Germany, and paid for them with hard currency that the Nazis desperately needed during the war. That, however, was at the mild end of the company’s cooperation with the Third Reich. Kodak also had a close relationship with Hitler’s personal economic adviser, and through him, the company continued to exercise a measure of control over its German branch, even during the war.

During the war, the American embassy in London noted that Kodak was making “fairly substantial purchases from enemy territory“. The embassy also noted “[t]hat the idea that he has been helping the enemy seems never to have occurred” to Kodak’s Swiss branch manager when he made substantial purchases from Germany. An American official got in touch with the Swiss manager, and reported in late 1943: “I pointed out to him that our sole interest is to shut off every source of possible benefit to our enemies, regardless of what American commercial interests might suffer“.

As to Kodak’s German branch, it expanded operations during the war to produce detonators, triggers, and other military hardware, and used slave labor in its factories. After the war, Kodak resumed control over its German branch, and absorbed the profits it had made during the conflict. Things had also gone great for Kodak’s branch in occupied France. It made so much money during the war that it was able to invest its profits into purchasing real estate, coal mines, and rest houses for the staff. As with its German subsidiary, Kodak resumed control of its French branch after that country was liberated.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Slave workers in a Siemens factory within Auschwitz concentration camp. Wikimedia

Siemens Made a Killing From the Holocaust

The German conglomerate Siemens AG is Europe’s biggest industrial manufacturing company, employing over 375,000 people, and generating more than € 83 billion in revenues in 2017. Its factories churn out a wide range of products in the fields of electronics, electrical engineering products, energy, medical goods, drives, fire safety, and industrial plant goods. In the Nazi era, it was Germany’s biggest industrial conglomerate and made use of slave laborers by the hundreds of thousands.

Siemens, which had been founded in 1847, hit a rough patch after WWI, and things did not get any better during the Great Depression. It was saved by the Nazis. When Hitler & Co. took control of Germany in 1933, Siemens profited as the new regime started rearming, and the company experienced massive growth from armaments contracts. As the leader of Germany’s electrical industry, Siemens’ revenue increased continuously from 1934 onwards, reaching a peak during WWII.

As the Nazis’ demands for armaments increased, and as German workers were taken from the factories and drafted into the military, German manufacturers turned to slave workers to meet the ensuing labor shortfall. From 1940 onwards, Siemens relied increasingly on slave labor from countries occupied by Germany, prisoners of war, Jews, Gypsies, and concentration camp inmates. Indeed, Siemens was a leading participant in the Nazis’ “death through work” program and ran factories inside concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck, Flossenburg, Sachsenhausen, and others.

Unsurprisingly, working conditions were terrible. For example, Siemens used female slave workers at Ravensbruck to make electrical components for V-1 and V-2 rockets. They were subjected to all types of exploitation, with the ever present threat of death if they balked. Siemens’ construction operations also made use of female slave workers, yoking them in teams like draft animals to pull giant rollers to pave the streets.

Siemens’ general director, Rudolf Bingel, was a personal friend of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler and made full use of his connections to ensure that Siemens did well under the Nazis. The company further profited from the Holocaust via the “Aryanization Program“, which expropriated Jewish businesses and properties, then resold them at fire-sale prices to approved companies such as Siemens.

Unsurprisingly, Siemens did its best to forget its role during the Nazi era, but reminders cropped up from time to time. In 2001, in a jaw-dropping display of obliviousness, Bosch Siemen Hausgeraete, the company’s consumer products arm, filed applications with the US Patents & Trademark Office for the name Zyklon. The same as in Zyklon B, the toxic chemical used in the Holocaust’s gas chambers. The company sought to use the Zyklon name in a range of household products, including gas ovens. After a public outcry, Siemens did an about turn, and withdrew the trademark applications.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Hitler and IBM founder Thomas Watson. Elias Washington Report

IBM Put Its Technology at the Nazis’ Disposal, Facilitating the Holocaust

In 2001, a bombshell of a book by Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust, drew on over 20,000 documents unearthed from archives in numerous countries, to describe a twelve-year-old alliance between IBM and the Third Reich. While numerous American companies had done business in Germany, even after Hitler and his Nazi crowd took over, they cut their business once the war broke out. Not so IBM, which continued doing business with the Third Reich, putting its cutting edge technology to facilitate the administrative aspects of carrying out the Holocaust.

The Final Solution – exterminating Europe’s Jews – was, in addition to being monstrously horrific, also monstrously complex from an administrative perspective. It involved the management and cross-referencing of huge databases of financial records, criminal files, and what interested the Nazis the most, Jews. In the Nazi era, the only way to do that was via a complicated punch card system, similar to that used in libraries until relatively recently.

IBM was the leader in punch card and data management technology, and in 1933, soon after Hitler and the Nazis took power, the company’s president traveled to Germany. He oversaw the building of an IBM factory, and the establishment of a local subsidiary that was hired by the Nazis to conduct a detailed census. That census focused on identifying Jews, Gypsies, and other undesirables marked for future extermination. IBM supplied a punch card system that allowed the Nazis to easily sort through the gathered data.

After WWII began in 1939, IBM’s president personally approved a request to supply. Germany with specialized machines to help in the exploitation of the recently conquered Poland, and in the deportation of Polish Jews. The process was repeated for each country conquered by the Nazis, with IBM supplying the capabilities for easily identifying undesirables.

The US joined the war in 1941, but even that late, archival records reveal secret correspondence of IBM higher-ups to set up a Dutch subsidiary, in lieu of the German one, through which the company could continue to supply the Nazis. By then, it was clear just how the Nazis were using IBM’s technology, but the company continued to supply them with the capabilities to easily identify Jews and other undesirables.

The company furnished the Germans with the means to keep track of millions of their targeted victims from their home and work addresses, through arrest, to transportation, to ultimate fate in the concentration or extermination camps. IBM’s role continued even within the death camps, for which it set up special codes such as Camp Code 001 for Auschwitz, and 002 was Buchenwald. Prisoner Code 8 was for Jews, and 11 was for Gypsies. Status Code 5 means execution by order, and Status Code 6 was for death by gas chamber. The archives include punch cards developed for the statistician who reported to SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of the Holocaust’s logistics. IBM has criticized the research underlying IBM and the Holocaust, but it has not denied the explosive charges contained in the book.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Members of the IG Farben cartel. AHRP

Bayer Was a Member of a Conglomerate That Produced the Chemicals Used in the Holocaust

Bayer is a German pharmaceutical company historically best known as the makers of Aspirin, more recently for making wonder drugs such as Levitra, and to soccer fans, as the initial sponsors of Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen. It also owns household brands such as Claritin, Coppertone, and Dr. Scholl’s. For most of its history, Bayer was a run-of-the-mill business – except for when it was part of IG Farben, the chemical conglomerate that produced the poisonous chemicals used in the Holocaust.

Bayer was founded in 1863 as an independent company, but in 1925, it became part of IG Farben – a union of major chemical companies, modeling themselves after Standard Oil in a quest to form a monopoly. The new conglomerate would go on to participate in numerous atrocities during the Nazi era. It began even before the war broke out, when the Western Powers handed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in a failed attempt at appeasement. IG Farben worked closely with the Nazis and Germany’s military, instructing them which chemical factories should be seized and delivered to IG Farben. They did the same during the invasion of Poland.

When the Holocaust began, German authorities grew concerned that their initial means of killing Jews and other “undesirables”, such as mass shootings or gassing in vans, were slow, inefficient, and took too much of a psychological toll on the murderers. IG Farben owned a cyanide-based insecticide, Zyklon-B, and proposed its use in sealed rooms as a speedy means of disposing of large numbers of people. Tests proved them right, and thus were born the gas chambers of the extermination camps. IG Farben would go on to produce and supply the Nazis with all the Zyklon-B gas canisters they needed to kill millions of men, women, and children.

And because that was not fiendish enough, the chemical conglomerate also set up factories in those death camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, where it made use of slave labor on a massive scale. IG Farben’s slave workers were forced to toil in horrific conditions and were frequently starved, beaten, mistreated, with the ever present threat of murder hanging over their heads.

After the war, 24 IG Farben directors were indicted for war crimes, and 13 of them were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths. However, all of them were released early, and most were restored to their directorships or resumed their business careers. Some of them even went on to win civilian medals from the West German government. The conglomerate itself survived the war, until it was split into its original constituent companies. Bayer returned to being an independent company in 1952. It is not the only surviving member of IG Farben: the chemical giant BASF, which posted sales of more than € 70 billion in 2015, was also once a part of the Nazi conglomerate.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Associated Press logo. The Verge

The Associated Press Engaged in Self-Censorship and Fired its German Jewish Staff to Placate the Nazis

The Associated Press (AP) was formed in May of 1846 by five New York City newspapers, to pool their resources and share the costs of covering the Mexican-American War. The cooperative venture proved a success, and the AP grew and expanded over the years, as other media outlets joined. Today, the AP is owned by its member newspapers and TV and radio stations, who contribute stories to the AP pool and use material written by AP’s staff journalists. It has generally been a paragon of good journalism, earning 52 Pulitzer Prizes since the award was established in 1917. However, a significant deviation from good journalism occurred during the Hitler years, when the AP collaborated with Nazi authorities to facilitate its reporting from Germany.

When Hitler & Co. came to power in 1933, they began exerting pressure on international news organizations operating in the Third Reich to conform to Nazi standards. One such standard was the Editor’s Law, enacted by the new regime to strictly limit what newspapers were allowed to publish. It also restricted the profession of journalism to Aryans, and mandated that Jews be removed from newsrooms.

Foreign journalists working in Germany thus found themselves being called upon to collect and send out news while being hosted by a government that wanted nothing to do with independent and objective journalism. Most international news organization refused to comply with such conditions, and withdrew from Germany rather than sacrifice their journalistic integrity and common decency.

The AP opted to stick around, and to placate the Nazi authorities, it fired all of its local Jewish staff. It also engaged in self-censorship and started adjusting its news reporting in order to keep the Nazis sweet. Among those adjustments was the downplaying of the daily discrimination endured by Jews in the Third Reich, and by the end of 1933, the AP was refusing to publish images depicting such discrimination. It worked. By 1935, most international news organizations of the day, such as Wide World Photos and Keystone, had been kicked out of Germany by the Nazi authorities, but the AP was one of the few still allowed to operate in the country.

After America joined the war in December of 1941, AP’s Berlin office was closed, and its American staffers were arrested and interned, before getting swapped in a prisoner exchange. However, in order to continue to obtain photographs from Nazi-occupied Europe, the AP made arrangements with news agencies in neutral countries to receive photos for the Third Reich, in exchange for furnishing the Germans with AP photos. The AP images provided to Germany appeared in Nazi propaganda, some were altered, and nearly all their captions were changed to conform to the official Nazi viewpoint.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from German officials in 1938. Rare Historical Photos

In Addition to its Founder Being a Notorious Anti-Semite, Ford Collaborated With the Third Reich

Henry Ford (1863 – 1947), founder of Ford Motor Company, was a complex man – although not the good kind of complex – when it came to race, and particularly to Jews. On the one hand, for his era, he was relatively progressive in some racial aspects: Ford was one of the few major corporations that actively hired black workers and did not discriminate against Jewish workers or suppliers. On the other hand, Henry Ford had strongly held anti-Semitic views – so anti-Semitic that Hitler praised him in Mein Kampf, and he was decorated by Nazi Germany. So it is unsurprising that his company collaborated with the Third Reich.

Henry Ford probably had no problem with Jews as individuals or at least no problem with some Jews as individuals. However, he had some serious problems when it came to Jews in the aggregate, and was an out-and-out anti-Semite who believed that Jews were conspiring to take over the world. To that end, he purchased and published a weekly newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, that had a decidedly anti-Jewish bent. Ford required all of his car dealers to stock his newspaper, and through that and other measures, got its circulation up to 900,000 by 1925, second only to The New York Times.

With that kind of outlook and anti-Semitic track record, it is unsurprising that Adolf Hitler was a great admirer of Henry Ford. The Nazi leader lauded the American industrialist in Mein Kampf, referred to him as “my inspiration”, and kept a photo of him on his desk. In 1938, on Ford’s 75th birthday, he was awarded The Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal that Nazi Germany could bestow on a foreigner.

Henry Ford had no problem whatsoever doing business with Nazi Germany. When the war began in 1939, Ford professed himself neutral, but his and his company’s actions belie that claim. Before America joined the war, Ford had no problem supplying Germany with war materials but declined to supply the British RAF with aircraft engines.

In the early 2000s, evidence was unearthed from newly declassified government governments, which showed that the Nazi links with Ford Motor Company went well beyond its founder. Among other things, declassified intelligence documents indicate that Henry Ford’s secretary, Ernest Liebold, might have been a Nazi agent who helped fuel his boss’ paranoia about Jews. Indeed, the documents indicate that Ford’s own son and the company then-president, Edsel, could have been prosecuted for trading with the Nazi enemy had he not died in 1943.

Letters between Edsel Ford and the head of Ford’s French subsidiary in 1942 – after America had joined the war – indicate that Ford knew and approved of the subsidiary’s manufacturing efforts on behalf of the German military. The declassified documents reveal that the US Department of Justice concluded that there was a basis for a criminal case against Edsel Ford.

In addition, Ford’s plants in Germany used slave workers in order to meet the demands of the German war effort. Not only after America joined the war and the plants were seized, but also during the interval between the war’s outbreak in September of 1939, and America’s entry into the conflict in December of 1941. During that period, Ford still controlled its German subsidiary, and knew what was going on in its factories. When the US Army liberated Ford’s plants in Nazi Germany, they found emaciated slave laborers behind barbed wires. A US Army investigator’s report, dated September 5th, 1945, accused Ford’s German subsidiary of serving as “an arsenal of Nazism, at least for military vehicles“, with the parent company’s knowledge and consent.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources & Further Reading

All that is Interesting – 7 Brands With Nazi Ties That We All Use

History Answers – How Coca-Cola Became Hitler’s Drink Of Choice

Retro Planet – Fanta: The Humble Beginnings of a Worldwide Phenomenon

Associated Press – Covering Tyranny, the Associated Press and Nazi Germany: 1933 – 1945

World Socialist Website – The Silence Of The Quandts: The History Of A Wealthy German Family

Spiegel – BMW’s Quandt Family to Investigate Wealth Amassed in Third Reich

BBC – Hugo Boss Apology For Nazi Past as Book is Published

BBC – Siemens Retreats Over Nazi Name

The Times Of Israel – A Holocaust Survivor Stonewalled By Siemens

Black, Edwin – IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (2001)

Chicago Tribune – A Dark History: Did IBM Help The Nazis Tally Their Victims?

Jalopnik – The Real Story Behind the Nazis and Volkswagen

Nation, The, March 8th, 2001 – Kodak’s Nazi Connections

New York Post, March 7th, 2016 – BMW Admits ‘Regret’ Over Using Nazi Slave Labor During WWII

New York Times, August 15th, 1997 – Hugo Boss Acknowledges Link to Nazi Regime

PBS, American Experience – Ford’s Anti-Semitism

Ranker – Companies Associated With Nazi Germany

Business Insider – How the Associated Press cooperated with the Nazis

DW – How The Nazis Used Poster Art As Propaganda

Telegraph, The, November 3rd, 2003 – Ford ‘Used Slave Labour’ in Nazi German Plants

Telegraph, The, September 29th, 2011 – BMW Dynasty Breaks Silence Over Nazi Past

Medium – How the Founder of Ford Motor Company Promoted Anti-Semitism in America

The Detroit Jewish News – It’s Time to Truly Face the Hatred of Henry Ford