Should Nazi Generational Wealth Be Spent on Justice?
Panera Bread, Snapple, Volkswagen, Dr. Scholl’s, Keurig, Krispy Kreme, Porsche and Aspirin are brands that most Americans recognize and trust. In recent weeks, the three parent companies behind these brands have landed into hot water over their ties to the German Nazi government during WWII. The billionaire Reimann family, which owns a the holding company behind a dozen popular food and beverage brands, claims to have only learned of their parents’ Nazi involvement last month. The Reimanns “spontaneously” donated $11 million to an unnamed charity. Meanwhile, Monsanto, with its parent company Bayer, was ordered last week to pay $80 million in damages for a cancer death related to their RoundUp weed killer brand. Bayer used to be a part of a conglomerate called IG Farben that managed a factory at the Auschwitz death camp, and manufactured the poison gas used to kill millions of Jews and other minorities. Volkswagen, whose founding closely involved Adolf Hitler, managed to change their image into a hippie car brand over the decades. But the executive who was hired to clean up the company’s reputation after an emissions scandal repeatedly used the words “Ebit macht frei,” at a company conference last month. The phrase sounds almost identical the slogan for Auschwitz, and the executive apologized. As many of these companies grow, and the debate over intergenerational wealth connects with Nazi inheritance, we’ll discuss whether Germans should revisit the debate over reparations and historical responsibility. Joining us is Jonathan Wiesen, Chair of the Department of History at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. He’s author of Creating the Nazi Marketplace: Commerce and Consumption in the Third Reich.