The Silence of the Quandts

I never realized until very recently, that EU citizen when buying a car can choose only among brands, built and founded during World Wars. So, if you do not want to give your money anymore to the war profiteers and you live in the EU, just like me, you have a very difficult choice to make. As it is a fact, you actually can not buy a modern car, that is not coming from war profiteers.

Today, Quandts are the biggest shareholders and the owners of BMW, the famous German car producer.

“The rise of the Quandt family fortune shares the same trajectory as Germany’s quest for global domination in the 20th century. It began in 1883, when Emil Quandt acquired a textile company owned by his late father-in-law. At the turn of the century, Emil passed the business to his eldest son, Guenther.

The younger Quandt saw an opportunity with the onset of war in 1914. His factories, already one of the biggest clothing manufacturers for the German state, quadrupled their weekly uniform production for the army, according to “Die Quandts.” (source)

For the beginning of such series, here is a video about the Quandt family, one of the biggest WWI and WWII profiteer family.

“During World War II, the BMW workforce was made up of slave laborers provided by the Nazis. Some sources put the figures as high as 50,000. Hold on to your driving gloves, however, because this gets much worse. BMW was then owned by Günther Quandt, and he and his son Herbert were very buddy-buddy with Hitler and his regime. BMW’s factories exclusively produced aircraft and motorcycle parts for the Nazi war effort. In fact, many inmates were put to work on the Luftwaffe engines, namely the BMW 132.

The Quandts also benefited greatly from the eradication of Jews and their livelihoods—they were handed multiple businesses seized from enslaved Jews. In 2001, following an internal report commissioned by BMW themselves, the company’s profits from the war were revealed. After the report was published, Gabriele Quandt told German’s Die Zeit newspaper that it was true that many laborers died working for the company.

In 1918, Guenther Quandt’s first wife died of the Spanish flu, leaving him a widower with two young sons, Hellmut and Herbert. He married Magda Ritschel in 1921, and the couple’s only son, Harald, was born later that year. Hellmut died in 1927, from complications related to appendicitis.

Guenther Quandt and Magda divorced in 1929. Two years later, she married Joseph Goebbels, a member of the German parliament who also held a doctorate degree in drama and served as head of propaganda for Germany’s growing Nazi party. After the Nazis took power in 1933, their leader, Adolf Hitler, appointed Goebbels as the Third Reich’s propaganda minister. Hitler was the best man at the couple’s wedding.

Guenther Quandt joined the party that same year. His factories became key suppliers to the German war effort, even though his relationship with Goebbels had become increasingly strained.

In 1937, he earned the title of Wehrwirtschaftsfuehrer, the name given to members of an elite group of businessmen who were deemed beneficial to the production of war materials for the Third Reich. During the war, Quandt’s AFA manufactured batteries for U-Boat submarines and V-2 rocket launchers. His BKIW –which had been renamed Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken AG in 1936 — produced Mauser firearms, ammunition and anti-aircraft missiles.

From 1940 to 1945, the Quandt family factories were staffed with more than 50,000 forced civilian laborers, prisoners of war and concentration camp workers, according to Scholtyseck’s 1,183-page study. The report was commissioned by the family in 2007 after German television aired the documentary “The Silence of the Quandts,” a critical look at their wartime activities.

Released in September 2011, the study also found that Quandt appropriated assets from Jewish company owners and that his son Herbert had planned building an AFA factory in which slave laborers would be deployed.

After the war, Guenther Quandt served in an internment camp in Moosburg an der Isar for more than a year, before being judged a “Mitlaeufer” — a Nazi follower who wasn’t formally involved in the regime’s crimes — in denazification hearings in 1948. No repercussions followed.

Guenther died in 1954 while vacationing in Cairo, leaving his business empire equally in the hands of his two surviving sons, Harald and Herbert. Most notably, the assets included ownership of AFA and Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken — renamed Industrie-Werke Karlsruhe AG after the war — and stakes in Daimler-Benz and potash miner Wintershall AG.

Herbert managed the stakes in the battery, car and potash firm, while Harald oversaw the interests in the industrial companies, according to Jungbluth’s biography.

Over the next decade, the brothers increased their stake in Daimler; Herbert saved BMW from collapse in the 1960s after becoming its largest shareholder and backing the development of new models.

Harald died in 1967, at age 45, in an airplane crash outside Turin, Italy. The relationship between his widow, Inge, and Herbert deteriorated after his death. Negotiations to settle the estate by separating assets commenced in 1970.

The most valuable asset that the Harald Quandt heirs received was four-fifths of a 14 percent stake in Daimler, according to the biography. In 1974, the entire stake was sold to the Kuwait Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, for about 1 billion deutsche marks, according to a Daimler-Benz publication from 1986 celebrating its centennial.

Inge Quandt, who suffered from depression, died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1978. Her new husband, Hans-Hilman von Halem, shot himself in the head two days later. The five orphaned daughters, two of them teenagers, were left to split the family fortune.”

While the half-brothers passed away decades ago, their legacy has endured. Herbert’s widow, Johanna Quandt, 86, and their children Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt, have remained in the public eye as BMW’s dominant shareholders. The billionaire daughters of Harald Quandt — Katarina Geller-Herr, 61, Gabriele Quandt, 60, Anette-Angelika May-Thies, 58, and 50-year-old Colleen-Bettina Rosenblat-Mo — have kept a lower profile.

The four sisters inherited about 1.5 billion deutsche marks ($760 million) after the death of their mother, Inge, in 1978, according to the family’s sanctioned biography, “Die Quandts.” They manage their wealth through the Harald Quandt Holding GmbH, a Bad Homburg, Germany-based family investment company and trust named after their father. Fritz Becker, the chief executive officer of the family entities, said the siblings realized average annual returns above 7 percent from its founding in 1981 through 1996. Since then, the returns have averaged 7.6 percent.

“The family wants to stay private and that is an acceptable situation for me,” said Becker in an interview at his Bad Homburg office. “We invest our money globally and if it’s $1 billion, $500 million or $3 billion, who cares?”

I do care. Is it a cognitive dissonance they’ve fallen deep into?

 

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3 thoughts on “The Silence of the Quandts

  1. Hi Brian and welcome here…

    Yes, it most definitely is. And it’s a very dirty way to get around these days, as if profiteering from Oil was not enough to completely abolish it .

    Like

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