Posterity demands from time to time that we dust off unsolicited and unimaginable past facts. In this chapter in time we thought it would be intriguing to our readers to review some of the famous brands we still see and use in all segments of industrial enterprise.
People often choose to buy from brands that have been around for ages because of the quality. On the other hand, the fact that these brands did some shady stuff in the past gets forgotten quite easily. They had to do whatever it took to survive back then, or maybe because the owners were just horrible people in general.
1. Hugo Boss
Hugo Boss has been around since 1923, but it wasn’t until 1931 when its namesake founder joined the Nazi Party. They were one of the manufacturers that were granted a contract by the Nazis to produce the uniforms for the SS units, SA storm troopers, and Hitler Youth. They continued to produce these uniforms throughout the war, using forced laborers from France and Poland to increase output when demand increased. It wasn’t until 1948 when the company reverted back to producing uniforms for police and postal office workers, eventually morphing into the high-class fashion house that people adore today.(1,2)
Prior to Porsche being expensive cars for those with money to burn, Ferdinand Porsche served as the lead designer for the Volkswagen Beetle. What’s even more surprising about this is the fact that Adolf Hitler served as his co-designer for the VW Beetle. Hitler planned on creating a cheap and reliable vehicle that Germans could drive daily. Porsche jumped on the opportunity and created the vehicle with his design getting approved by the Nazi leader.
Soon enough, a factory in Stuttgart, Germany was creating the Beetle in the thousands with slave labor being the main reason why it was produced so quickly.
Despite being a large pharmaceutical company, Bayer was part of IG Farben which created Zyklon-B gas canisters. These gas canisters were loaded into the same gas chambers that killed millions of Jews during the Nazi regime. The man who invented the gas, Fritz Haber, was half Jewish but decided to renounce his faith just so he could get on the good side of Hitler and his men.
Even up to this day, Bayer still does some Nazi-ish acts. The company is well known for manufacturing Aspirin, but they refuse to acknowledge its inventor, a Jewish man named Arthur Eichengrun. Oh, and they also used to have an employee named Josef Mengle, and they were more than happy enough to sponsor his search for medical discoveries in Nazi concentration camps.(1,2)
IBM is one of the earliest IT companies to ever exist, so it’s not that surprising that they had a few questionable dealings from decades ago. The company was the pioneer when it came to keeping track of large databases using a very sophisticated system that involved punch cards. These punch cards kept track of financial and medical records, as well as who were Jews.
The moment the Nazis invaded a country, they would take over the census system using the punch cards from IBM. After doing this, they would be able to detect who were the Jews, Gypsies, and other non-Aryan citizens of the country before shipping them off to concentration camps. These punch cards were so sophisticated that it could group people based on religion, camp location, and even how they were planned on being executed by the Nazis. If you were a Prisoner Code 8, you were a Jew. The Code 11s were for Gypsies. If you were in Auschwitz, you’d get Camp Code 001, and Code 002 for Buchenwald. Status Code 6 meant that a prisoner would be executed by gas chamber, and Code 5 was for executions by order. That was how intricate IBM was when it came to the punch cards.
IBM claims that they were merely forced into being involved with the Nazis as they had a German subsidiary even before Hitler became the leader. On the other hand, there were records of IBM sending internal memos to their New York offices admitting that their punch cards were helping the Nazis become efficient.
The Siemens Company was quick to take advantage of the rise of the Nazis in Germany by building factories near concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. They employed hundreds of thousands of slave workers to manufacture all sorts of goods for the German military. They were put in charge of power generation, communications, and rail infrastructure, among other things.
It was far too common for slave workers back then to be a part of an assembly line inside a Siemens factory one moment, and then the next, be inside a gas chamber also made by Siemens. Nowadays, they’re still being forced to pay for damages by survivors, but still, the company was insensitive enough to attempt to trademark the name “Zyklon” so they can use it for their products that include gas ovens.
Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf Dassler co-owned Dassler Brothers, an athletic shoe company that eventually spawned Adidas and Puma after a feud between the brothers – thanks to the Nazis.
Rudolf was sent to Poland to serve German forces and believed that his brother, Adi, was behind it. As soon as the war was over, he confided into the Allies that Adi was helping the Nazis. All of this eventually led to the creation of Puma (from Rudolf) and Adidas (from Adi.)
Like with other companies, Kodak used slave laborers in their factory in Germany, employing at least 80 people plucked straight from concentration camps for their Stuttgart branch, and 250 more for their Kopenick one. To make up for this snafu, Kodak donated $500,000 to the German fund for victims of forced labor. Additionally, Hitler’s top economic adviser, Wilhelm Keppler, had ties to Kodak and advised the company to fire all of their Jewish employees if they wished to succeed.
BMW was more than happy to help out the Nazi war effort by providing motorcycle parts and airplanes made using slave labor. Günther Quandt and his son Herbert were good friends with Hitler, and they were also given the businesses seized from Jews who were sent to concentration camps.
They justified the use of slave labor during WWII by stating that demands for aero engines from BMW were increasing and they had to do their part. On the other hand, they do admit that they regret doing this and have since apologized.
Fanta was invented after Coca-Cola syrup became impossible to import into Nazi Germany. The head of Coca-Cola Deutschland decided that they needed to create a new product if they couldn’t manufacture Coke. The only ingredients that they could use during wartime in Germany were whey and apple pomace a.k.a. “the leftovers of leftovers.”
While the plant was cut off from the main headquarters during the war, they were busy manufacturing Fanta for the German masses. On the other hand, the parent company had some pretty questionable ads during that time as well.
The Ford Motor Company turned a blind eye and decided to let slaves work at one of their German plants during WWII. They also backed their European subsidiaries and allowed them to create equipment for the use of the Nazi army. This is no surprise as Henry Ford was known for his anti-Semitic views and was captivated by Nazi propaganda. The founder was also mentioned in Mein Kampf and was praised by Hitler, even having a portrait of Ford above his desk to serve as his inspiration.
Henry Ford was also a recipient of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest honor that Nazis could give to non-German folks.
This is a historical reminder how trickle down money can contribute to the demise of groups of people.
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