10. A Luxury Car Maker’s Nazi Ties
Bavarian Motor Works, or BMW, has always been known for its high-quality automobiles, and until 1945, for their aircraft engines. In 2020, it had around 130,000 employees worldwide, and global business revenue of nearly 100 billion euros. 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. That became an issue after a 2007 TV documentary aired unpleasant revelations about the company’s Nazi-era activities.
An investigation had unearthed plenty of problematic information about BMW’s and the Quandt family’s Nazi past. In a nutshell, the family patriarch, Gunther Quandt, and his son Herbert were up to their necks in collaboration with the Nazi regime. To their credit, the current generation of Quandts, unlike most other companies with Nazi ties, eventually came clean and did not duck the issue or sugarcoat things. They grabbed the bull by the horn, 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.