BERLIN — Germany’s second-richest household constructed its multibillion-dollar fortune with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Jimmy Choo footwear and Calvin Klein fragrance — and compelled laborers beneath the Nazis.
The Reimann household, which controls the buyer items conglomerate JAB Holding Firm, not too long ago commissioned a historian to dig deep into firm archives and make clear its actions through the 12 years of Nazi rule.
The preliminary revelations, 74 years after World Struggle II ended, are damning.
Albert Reimann Sr. and his son Albert Reimann Jr., who ran the corporate within the 1930s and 1940s, had been enthusiastic Hitler supporters and anti-Semites, who condoned the abuse of compelled laborers, not solely of their industrial chemical compounds firm in southern Germany, but in addition in their very own dwelling.
Feminine staff from Japanese Europe had been compelled to face at consideration bare of their manufacturing unit barracks. Those that refused had been sexually abused. Employees had been kicked and crushed, amongst them one Russian lady, who cleaned within the Reimanns’ non-public villa.
Information of the household’s darkish historical past broke Sunday within the tabloid Bild. Peter Harf, the household spokesman and considered one of two managing companions of JAB Holding, mentioned the historian’s findings “utterly matched” these of the household.
“Reimann Sr. and Reimann Jr. had been responsible,” Mr. Harf mentioned. “They belonged in jail.”
The exploitation of compelled staff was widespread in Germany through the battle, a time of acute labor shortages. An estimated 12 million folks from greater than a dozen European nations had been kidnapped by the Nazis and compelled to work in assist of the German battle effort. At their peak, compelled laborers made up an estimated 20 % of the German work power.
Farms and industrial corporations that mattered to the battle effort obtained precedence from the federal government workplace that allotted the employees — women and men taken from their houses in Nazi-occupied territories or, generally, prisoners of battle.
The Reimann case stands out for the actual brutality detailed in a number of the reported paperwork, and the truth that father and son seem to have been concerned within the abuse themselves, mentioned Andreas Wirsching, director of the Munich-based Leibniz Institute for Up to date Historical past.
“It was quite common for corporations to make use of compelled laborers — nevertheless it was not frequent for a corporation boss to be in direct and bodily contact with these compelled laborers,” Mr. Wirsching mentioned.
Albert Reimann Sr., who died in 1954, and Albert Reimann Jr., who died in 1984, reportedly by no means spoke in regards to the Nazi period after the battle. It was solely within the early 2000s that the youthful technology started previous firm paperwork and stumbled throughout materials that prompt their father and grandfather had been dedicated Nazis.
In 2014, the household requested Paul Erker, an financial historian on the College of Munich, to doc the historical past. Mr. Erker’s analysis remains to be underway. What has emerged to this point got here from an interim presentation he gave earlier this yr, Mr. Harf mentioned.
“We had been speechless,” Mr. Harf mentioned. “We had been ashamed and had been white as a wall.”
As soon as the report is accomplished subsequent yr it will likely be made public, he mentioned. The household plans to donate 10 million euros, or about $11.three million, to a charity that has but to be recognized.
In 2000, the German authorities helped arrange a 10 billion mark (about 5.1 billion euros) fund to supply compensation to compelled laborers, with half the cash coming from corporations like Siemens, Deutsche Financial institution, Daimler and Volkswagen.
The checklist of well-known German corporations that profited from compelled labor — and Nazi crimes extra typically — is lengthy, and it typically took many years for them to open their books.
Daimler was one of many first, within the 1980s. The Mercedes maker used practically 40,000 compelled laborers towards the top of the battle. Volkswagen used some 12,000, together with focus camp prisoners who had been locked up in a devoted camp utilized by the corporate. Hugo Boss produced the black SS uniforms. Deutsche Financial institution was considered one of many corporations that profited from companies being taken from their Jewish house owners.
The Reimanns initially made their fortune from a chemical firm that grew to become Reckitt Benckiser, the $58 billion shopper merchandise big whose manufacturers embody Lysol. They then channeled a lot of their wealth into JAB, a conglomerate that has develop into one of many largest gamers within the shopper world via a rapid-fire sequence of company takeovers.
JAB has spent billions to develop into a rival to the likes of Starbucks and Nestlé by shopping for chains like Peet’s Espresso & Tea, Krispy Kreme and Pret A Manger. Final yr, it additionally helped the pod-coffee firm Keurig Inexperienced Mountain purchase Dr Pepper Snapple for practically $19 billion.
It additionally controls the cosmetics big Coty, proprietor of Calvin Klein fragrances, and beforehand owned luxurious style labels like Jimmy Choo.
The fortune of the Reimanns, some of the secretive industrial households in Germany, was estimated final yr at 33 billion euros, in accordance with Supervisor Magazin, a monetary publication. In lists of the wealthiest households within the nation the Reimanns most not too long ago ranked second.
Primarily based on what has been revealed to this point, Mr. Wirsching, the historian, mentioned the Reimanns had most probably not simply been opportunists but in addition “dedicated Nazis.”
Father and son joined the Nazi occasion and donated to the SS even earlier than Hitler got here to energy. In July 1937, Albert Reimann Jr. wrote a letter to Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the SS, who oversaw the Holocaust.
“We’re a purely Aryan household enterprise that’s over 100 years previous,” he wrote. “The house owners are unconditional followers of the race principle.”
By 1943, 175 staff, or a 3rd of the full, had been compelled laborers, Bild reported. Along with Russian and Japanese European civilians, the Reimanns used French prisoners of battle. In 1940, Albert Reimann Jr. reportedly complained to the mayor of Ludwigshafen, the city the place his manufacturing unit was primarily based, that the French weren’t working exhausting sufficient.
On the finish of the battle, the Reimanns had been investigated by the allied occupying powers. The French banned them from persevering with their enterprise actions, however the People overturned the judgment, Bild reported.