The Example of Audi
Flossenbürg concentration camp. All 18,000 prisoners from the camp were used as slave labour
in Auto Union plants.
The German car manufacturer Audi’s predecessor company used slave labour forcing more than 3,700 concentration camp inmates to work under inhumane conditions during the Nazi rule, according to a 2014 study commissioned by Audi as cited by the German press.
The study based on Audi’s archives and compiled by historians Martin Kukowski and Rudolf Boch, reveals that the management of Auto Union, the company that evolved into Audi, had very close ties with Nazi leaders. The research was published under the name “Wartime Economy and Labour Deployment by Auto Union AG Chemnitz during World War II.”
The historians discovered that the Nazi SS defence corps built seven labour camps for the sole benefit of the carmaker, dpa news agency reported, adding that more than 3,700 concentration camp inmates were forced to work for Auto Union.
The study stressed that the car manufacturer’s management bears “moral responsibility” for the conditions at the plant near the Flossenbürg concentration camp in the southern state of Bavaria. It noted that 18,000 prisoners were used for slave labour in the camp and 4,500 died, according to dpa.
In addition, more than 16,500 forced labourers who were not interned in concentration camps also worked for Auto Union in the Saxon cities of Zwickau and Chemnitz. The study indicates that about a quarter of the prisoners were Jews.
The Auto Union — a car maker created in 1932 after the merger of the German car brands Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer — was headed by Dr. Richard Bruhn, who is a particular focus of the study.
The “Father of the Auto Union,” Bruhn was a member of the Nazi party and given the status of a “Wehrwirtschaftsfuehrer.” This quasi-military status demonstrated the company’s important role in the production of war materials.
Bruhn was Auto Union’s chief from 1932 to 1945. At the end of World War Two he was interned by the British. After release he again became head of Auto Union again following its reformation in West Germany. In 1953 Bruhn was awarded West Germany’s Grand Cross of Merit for his revival of the group with funding from the U.S. Marshall Plan. He died in 1964.
After the merger with another German manufacturer, NSU, Auto Union was renamed Audi in 1985.
“I’m very shocked by the scale of the involvement of the former Auto Union leadership in the system of forced and slave labour,” Audi works council head Peter Mosch told German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. “I was not aware of the extent [of this involvement],” he added.
The company is reportedly considering changing the online profile of Bruhn, removing his name from company initiatives such as pension plans. Christian Lösel, the Mayor of Ingolstadt, where Audi is headquartered, told Wirtschaftswoche the city was considering changing the names of streets such as “Bruhnstraße,” named in his honour.
Audi is the last among the German carmakers including Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, to have commissioned research into its work during the Nazi era. The Volkswagen Group allowed an investigation of forced labour in 1996 and made financial contributions to a foundation helping those who served as forced labourers during Nazi rule.
Audi is one of the largest German car makers, a member of the “German Big 3” luxury automakers, along with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It has been a mostly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Group since 1966.
In 2011, the dynasty behind the BMW luxury car maker admitted, after decades of silence, to using slave labour, taking over Jewish firms and doing business with the highest echelons of the Nazi party during World War Two.
BMW plant uses prisoners of war in war production in plant in Allach.
Daimler, which owns Mercedes, admitted as far back as 1986 that it had employed 40,000 forced labourers under appalling conditions during the war, enabling it to reap massive profits.
Electrical company Bosch used 20,000 slaves while steelmaker ThyssenKrupp used 75,000.
Volkswagen, builder of the ‘People’s Car’ that became the VW Beetle, employed 12,000 slaves in the most terrible of conditions at its plant in Wolfsburg. The chemical and pharmaceutical companies BASF, Bayer and Hoechst employed 80,000 slaves.
Chemical manufacturer IG Farben had a factory inside Auschwitz death camp that used prison labour in the production of synthetic rubber and oil. It also produced Zyklon B — the poison used in the Nazi gas chambers. At its peak in 1944, this factory made use of 83,000 slave labourers.
Slave labour used in an IG Farben plant, near Auschwitz concentration camp.
Shortly after the Audi study was released, German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche published a table illustrating the Nazi past of top German firms like Bosch, Mercedes, Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen and many others, which involved the use of almost 300,000 slaves.
How many slaves did German firms take from the Nazis?
1. IG Farben: 83,000 (IG Farben no longer exists. It was split into its four largest original constituent companies in 1951. The current main successor companies are AGFA, BASF, Bayer and Sanofi.)
2. BASF, Bayer and Hoechst: 80,000
3. ThyssenKrupp: 75,000
4. BMW: 50,000
5. Daimler (Mercedes): 40,000
6. Bosch: 20,000
7. Audi: 20,000
8. Volkswagen: 12,000
(RT, Daily Mail, Local.de, Wikipedia)