BMW’s Nazi Billions – CounterPunch.org

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September 1, 2022 – Eighty-three years after Nazi Germany attacked Poland, a Polish parliamentary committee has tabled its estimate of the economic damage caused by Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation during the Second World War. The parliamentary commission found that the losses amounted to 6.2 trillion zlotys, or about 1.32 trillion US dollars or 1.32 trillion euros – €1,320,000,000,000.00.

During Germany’s occupation of Poland, many of those whom the Nazis called Untermenschen – the non-Aryan subhuman – were enslaved in German factories. One of these German factories was BMW. While Polish, Russian, Jewish and other slaves suffered, others became rich – very rich. Today, Susanne Klatten (born Quandt), a German businesswoman, heiress and co-owner of BMW, is Germany’s richest woman – valued at $24 billion. Klatten is part of the Quandt family.

Much of the Quandt’s wealth is tied to a cold February morning in 1933, when about two dozen of Nazi Germany’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen gathered to meet the super-Nazi Hermann Goering. Among them was Günther Quandt, a textile producer turned weapons and battery magnate and grandfather of Susanne Klatten.

Also present at the meeting was Friedrich Flick, a steel magnate and Nazi supporter; Baron August von Finck, a Bavarian finance magnate; Kurt Schmitt, CEO of insurance giant Allianz; executives from the chemical conglomerate IG Farben – responsible for Auschwitz and Zyklon B – and the potash giant Wintershall; and, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, chairman by marriage of the Krupp steel empire and Nazi financier. They all agreed with what Adolf Hitler told them,

private enterprise cannot be sustained in the era of democracy.

With their money and the support of German conservatives – von Papen, Neurath, Gürtner, Krosigk, Blomberg, Schacht, Hugenberg, etc. – Adolf Hitler became Reichskanzler. German capitalists’ money was very welcome, especially since Hitler’s Nazi party had more than twelve million reichsmarks in debt – the Nazis were virtually bankrupt. Once provided with plenty of corporate money, the Nazis could dress the SA in uniform, drive them into trucks, and engage in beatings, torture, and murder. The Nazi thugs were generously supported by the German police and justice system.

Long before all of this, Susanne Klatten’s (née Quandt) grandfather managed to avoid military service during World War I. Dying is not for capitalists – it is for others. About a decade after the First World War, grandfather Günther married the dashing Magda Friedländer (1929) who became Magda Quandt.

Soon after, the future First Lady of the Nazi Reich, Magda Quandt, became part of the Norse Ring, frequented by early believers of the Aryan master race. The Nordic Ring was an elite and highly racial debating club in Berlin, frequented by many German aristocrats and wealthy people.

It was there that Madga first met a young upstart called Joseph Goebbels – a failed fiction writer. Madga was inflamed and the 1st September 1930, she joined the Nazi Party.

Around the same time, her husband, Günther Quandt, joined the Society for the Study of Fascism – another debating group with around two hundred members discussing (read: admiring) Italian fascism as practiced by Benito Mussolini. After her divorce from Günther Quandt, Madga married Joseph Goebbels – becoming Magda Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich First Lady and a brutal killer of all her children – except for Harald Quandt who died in 1967.

However, the 4e February 1931, Günther and Magda meet Hitler for the first time. Magda and Günther’s son Harald Quandt once greeted Hitler with, Germany’s youngest Hitler Youth reports to his Führer! – Nazism was deeply rooted in the Quandt family, which today owns BMW.

The feeling was mutual, Hitler idolized Harald as Goebbles took him on a two-day SA march to Braunschweig. During the march, more than 100,000 people, including tens of thousands of SA and SS men took part in the rally. It was the largest paramilitary march ever organized in Germany.

In his diary, Goebbels described Harald at the event, Harald looks so cute in his new SA uniform. Indeed, the son of a capitalist – whose father finances Hitler – always looks so sweet in his SA uniform. Yet the SA remains one of the most brutal murderous organizations Germany has ever seen, barring the SS.

Meanwhile, the German capitalists and Hitler aimed to stimulate the economy through the rearmament of the army. This was very good news for arms producers like Günther Quandt. The 11the December 1931, Goebbels documented one of Günther’s visits, Günther Quandt came in the evening. He wants to donate money to the party.

Günther Quandt also attended Goebbels’ two-hour speech. Meanwhile, his son Harald Quandt remained popular with top Nazis. Perhaps, because the boy was tall and blond and a good showpiece for the Nazi leaders who themselves didn’t exactly look Aryan – Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler were neither tall , neither blond nor athletic build.

But the Quant family wasn’t just about looks. Harald’s father – Günther Quandt – joined the Nazi Party on this Labor Day in 1933, receiving membership number 2,636,406. Generally, he later claimed that Goebbels coerced him. Yet the reality was quite different from Quandt’s post-war lie.

In his diary, Goebbels noted at the time that he had received Günther at his office on Friday 28e April 1933, seeing the opposite of Günther’s story, When T was looking forward to joining the NSDAP.

Perhaps the German philosopher Max Horkheimer was not entirely wrong when he said that whoever does not want to talk about capitalism should also be silent about fascism. There was an inextricable link between German capitalism and Nazism – one is unthinkable without the other. In fact, without the money of one, the other might never have come to power.

Herbert Quandt also signed up as a supporting member of the SS. Yet father and son – Günther and Harald were not alone when it came to supporting and empowering the Nazis. Shortly after – on the 28the July 1941 – Nazi Party member Günther Quandt celebrates his sixtieth birthday with a grand dinner for 130 men at the Hotel Esplanade, one of Berlin’s famous luxury hotels. Meanwhile, many business leaders gorged themselves on forced labor, Jewish businesses which they seized with impunity – in a process the Nazis called Aryanization.

Unsurprisingly, entrepreneur Günther Quandt received the Nazi title, Wehrwirtschaftsführer, leader of the military economy – a kind of business Führer. Nazi Günther Quandt returned the favor gratefully.

While not yet in the business of BMW manufacturing, Günther Quandt profited from it in other ways. Günther’s arms company – DWM – manufactured millions of bullets, rifles and the infamous Luger pistol for the Wehrmacht. Its stock price would soon skyrocket 300%. It paid to be a Nazi.

Günther Quandt was also close to Leopold Gutterer who had replaced Karl Hanke, Goebbels’ most trusted assistant for the past decade. Now Gutterer was only weeks away from introducing a new policy affecting the entire German Reich: the mandatory labeling of Jews with the yellow Star of David. It was for the Untermensch. For Aryan Herrnmensch Quandt, that was a 300% increase in profits.

And things got even better under the Nazi regime – but not for Quandt’s slave labor – but for Quandt himself. As a birthday present, Deutsche Bank offered Günther Quandt a seat on the supervisory board of Daimler-Benz, which kick-started Quandt’s entry into the automotive industry. On this occasion, Deutsche Bank boss Hermann Josef Abs said: your most outstanding characteristic is your faith in Germany and the Führer.

Worse, Günther Quandt, had also shared some personal observations on – as he put it in his own words, the principle of the pure race. Like many German businessmen and Nazi leaders, Günther Quandt was also a strong supporter of the pure Aryan race. The irrationality of racism also shaped their business relationship. Author David De Jong writes,

at least twelve million foreigners were forced to work in Germany during the war: men and women, boys and girls.

Two and a half million of them died there, many after being subjected to horrific working and living conditions. IG Farben, Siemens, Daimler-Benz, BMW, Krupp and various companies controlled by Günther Quandt and Friedrich Flick were among the largest private users of forced labor and slavery… [their companies would] “rent” each enslaved prisoner to the SS for a daily rate of four or six Reichsmarks, depending on the person’s ability.

Forced labor collaborations between SS-run concentration camps and German companies included Auschwitz with IG Farben, Dachau with BMW, Sachsenhausen with Daimler-Benz, Ravensbrück with Siemens, and Neuengamme with Günther’s AFA, Porsche’s Volkswagen and Dr. Oetker.

By the spring of 1944, Günther Quandt’s factory had manufactured around 400 million infantry bullets in a factory where at least 75 slaves had been executed. One year later – 18e April 1945 – The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and predecessor to the CIA assessed Nazi Party member Quandt stating that his wealth had greatly expanded since Hitler came to power.

In the immediate years of post-Nazi Germany and as standard practice for almost all profiteering corporate bosses, Günther Quandt got away with it. He received a denazification certifying Persilschein – a Persil ticket, named after a famous German laundry detergent. It was an ironic term for any statement that meant being washed clean of the “stain” (!) of Nazi collaboration and sympathies.

By the end of the decade, many convicted Nazi war criminals were at the top again. They were among the richest men in Germany. 27e December 1954, Günther Quandt travels to Egypt for a vacation – unlike his victims.

Already in 1953, West Germany’s economy had quadrupled. The denazified corporate magnates and their heirs in the West entered an age of unfathomable wealth. These tycoons left their heirs businesses and fortunes worth billions. With their combined wealth estimated at around $43 billion (2018), among them are the Quandts, owners of BMW.

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