‘Nazi Billionaires’ exposes the stained elusive history of Germany’s richest families that built their fortunes by colluding with Hitler’s Third Reich
Sometimes it’s not just the sins of the fathers that are visited upon their children — but, as one fascinating new book detailing the lineage of Nazi dynasties entails— it’s the sins and unimaginable wealth of the Fatherland as well.
‘Nazi Billionaires’ by investigative journalist David de Jong exposes the dark history of how Germany’s most affluent families – the Quandts, the Flicks, the von Fincks, the Porsche-Piechs – amassed fortune and power by enabling the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, while charting how their lasting wealth has earned them positions of influence within some of the world’s biggest brands.
Their legacy lies in ubiquitous consumer goods and car brands beloved around the world like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, and Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce.
The ultra-secretive Reimann family owns the majority stake in companies like: Snapple, Dr Pepper, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Peet’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Keurig Green Mountain, Panera Bread, and Pret A Manger. They also have their foot firmly in the luxury fashion market with Bally and Jimmy Choo.
Meanwhile, the Oetker empire includes Germany’s largest beer brewer, Radeberger, in addition to a portfolio of the world’s most exclusive luxury hotels like Hotel du Cap- Eden- Roc, Le Bristol Paris, and The Brenners Park Spa Hotel in Baden- Baden, Germany.
The book details how a few opportunistic tycoons enriched themselves on corruption, cruelty, and the spoils of virulent anti-Semitism. They expanded their empires by forcibly taking over Jewish-owned assets in a process known as ‘Aryanization’ and increased profit margins through free slave labor from concentration camps.
In the years since World War II, these elusive German families have ignored their associations to the companies that armed and fed Nazi soldiers, but their service to Hitler’s cause continues to afford a life of luxury for their beneficiaries today with castles, boats, private jets, ski chalets, expensive art and cocaine.
In a country that is so often considered a paragon of remembrance and contrition, their names continue to adorn buildings, foundations, scholarships and prizes.
‘I am a capitalist,’ Verena Bahlsen, the young 26-year-old heiress of a biscuit empire declared in May 2019. ‘I own a quarter of Bahlsen and I am happy about it too. It should continue to belong to me. I want to make money and buy sailing yachts from my dividend and stuff.’
Adding to the uproar, Bahlsen claimed that her company had nothing to be ashamed of, as during the Nazi years ‘we paid forced laborers the same as Germans and treated them well.’ De Jong says that Bahlsen is just one of many German scions are ‘sidestep a complete reckoning with the dark history that stains their fortunes.’
Adolf Hitler rode a wave of economic and political discontent to the chancellorship in 1933. In the years prior to his rapid ascent, the dictator made inroads among Germany’s wealthiest businessmen in an effort to shore up the Nazi party. The regime’s ‘Aryanization policy’ allowed them to seize Jewish companies with impunity. They kept operating costs low by using forced laborers from concentration camps to man the factories that responded to the endless demand for supplies, munitions, uniforms, and food. Decades later, their service to Hitler’s cause continues to afford the lap of luxury for their beneficiaries today with boats, private jets, ski chalets, expensive art collections and homes around the world
THE QUANDT FAMILY – NET WORTH $38 BILLION, MAJORITY STAKE OWNERS OF BMW, AND DESCENDANTS OF ‘FIRST LADY OF THE THIRD REICH’ MAGDA GOEBBELS
Before Magda Goebbels became known as the unofficial First Lady of the Third Reich as the wife of Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels – she was married to a German industrialist named Günther Quandt, with whom she had one son named Harald.
Günther Quandt: Patriarch. Industrialist. Nazi collaborator.
Toni Quandt: Günther’s first wife who died from the flu. Herbert’s mother.
Magda Goebbels: Günther’s second wife. Harald’s mother.
Harald Quandt: Günther’s youngest son who was raised by Joseph Goebbels. He is the only child from Magda and Günther’s doomed marriage.
Herbert Quandt: Günther’s eldest son and the Quandt dynasty’s richer branch thanks to his investment in BMW.
Susanne Klatten: Herbert’s youngest daughter. BMW heiress.
Stefan Quandt: Herbert’s youngest son. BMW heir.
Twenty-years her senior, Günther was already a widow with two children when he married Magda Friedländer, the 17-year-old stepdaughter of a Jewish-German merchant in 1921.
Günther was ‘a textile producer turned arms-and-battery tycoon,’ writes De Jong. His family made a fortune supplying uniforms for German soldiers in the First World War before he used his inheritance to bankroll a far reaching empire that included battery production, munitions manufacturing, steel supply, construction, pharmaceuticals and chemical businesses.
His marriage to Madga was over by 1930 as she bounced around Berlin with various lovers and suitors (including a rich nephew of President Herbert Hoover) until she became infatuated with Nazism and a ‘mad groupie’ of its most vocal proponent, Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
By the time Hitler took power in 1933, Günther was already one of the richest men in Germany and primed to exploit his connections to high-ranking Nazi officials into stratospheric wealth by landing lucrative government contracts in Hitler’s rampant rush to re-arm Germany.
The industrialist officially joined the party in May 1933, receiving membership number 2,636,406. (Later after the war, he tried concealing his affiliation by claiming that Goebbels and his ex-wife had blackmailed him into joining).
Günther expanded his portfolio by seizing assets owned by rich Jews under the regime’s ‘Aryanization policy.’ And ‘viscously’ capitalized on the use of free slave labor from concentration camps to man his factories.
War was good for business. Günther’s company, DWM, became the most important arms and ammunition maker for the Third Reich.
Its subsidiaries had produced the famous Mauser rifles, the Karabiner 98k, Luger pistols, and plane parts for the Wehrmacht. By 1941, Hitler’s insatiable demand for artillery caused DWM’s stock price to skyrocket by 300 percent.
His other firm AFA, was the largest manufacturer of batteries in the world, and a key supplier for Hitler’s infamous U-boat submarines, rockets and deadly G7e electric torpedoes that sunk ships.
Meanwhile his family’s textile factories continued to make a mint churning out uniforms for the Imperial Army, that ‘If lined up, the cloth could have spanned more than half the country, from east to west,’ writes de Jong.
As the war raged, Günther seized control of Jewish-owned Byk Gulden, a massive chemicals and pharmaceuticals firm that had grown into one of Germany’s largest pharmaceuticals businesses by the end of the war. (His beneficiaries still own this company today).
Günther Quandt became the Nazis’ chief supplier of arms, ammunition and batteries beginning in the 1930s. He expanded his empire by seizing assets owned by rich Jews under the regime’s ‘Aryanization policy.’ And ‘viscously’ capitalized on the use of free slave labor from concentration camps to man his factories. In 1954, his sons Herbert and Harald inherited a $135 million fortune ($1.4 billion in today’s money) and continued to expand the family’s coffers, which today includes an approximately 47% controlling stake in the car maker BMW
Günther was already one of the richest men in Germany by the time Hitler came to power in 1933. The ‘textile producer turned arms-and-battery tycoon’ joined the Nazi Party that same year, receiving membership number 2,636,406. After the war he attempted to conceal his affiliation by claiming that he had been blackmailed into joining. His son eldest son from his first marriage, Herbert (right) joined the family business by helping with dubious acquisitions and overseeing the building and dismantling of an uncompleted concentration subcamp in Poland. Throughout the war, Günther used as many as 57,500 slaves from concentration camps to meet Hitler’s insatiable demand for ammunition
Gunther was a widow when he married 17-year-old Magda Friedländer in 1921. Their marriage produced one son named Harald (right) before the couple divorced in 1930. Magda bounced around Berlin with various lovers and suitors, including a rich nephew of President Herbert Hoover, before she became infatuated with Nazism and its most vocal proponent, Dr. Joseph Goebbels (pictured). Magda married the propaganda minister and became known as the unofficial First Lady of the Third Reich
Goebbels was immediately taken with his stepson. Tall with blonde hair and blue eyes – young Harald (above) became the poster child for Aryan youth in propaganda campaigns. According to Goebbels, the Fuhrer was also taken by the the child, ‘idolatrously.’ Beaming with pride, he wrote: ‘Harald looks so sweet in his new SA uniform. Harald’s in the car with boss. He’s all man. Ovation of thousands. A rush of enthusiasm. Boss is completely overjoyed. He picks up Harald’s arm. The sweet boy has stood brave beside me all day’
In 1937, the ruthless magnate ousted Johanna and Fritz Heines from ownership of Henry Pels, a state-of-the-art toolmaking company that he retooled to manufacture weapons. The Heines were later deported and murdered at Chelmno extermination camp.
Günther used as many as 57,500 slaves that were brought in from occupied countries or concentration camps to help build up the Nazi war machine. For his devotion to the cause, Hermann Goring bestowed him with the title of ‘Wehrwirtschaftsführer,’ which meant ‘military economy leader.’
His son Harald became a lieutenant in the Luftwaffe, though he never officially joined the Nazi party despite pressure from his propaganda minister stepfather.
The German car giant BMW used Nazi slave labor to fuel Adolf Hitler’s killing machine during World War II. Herbert acquired a majority stake in the company in 1960, which today has been passed on to his two youngest children, Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten
Meanwhile, Herbert Quandt (Gunther’s eldest son from his first marriage), joined the family business by helping with dubious acquisitions and overseeing the building and dismantling of an uncompleted concentration subcamp in Poland.
Forced laborers were housed near the factories in overcrowded sub-camps that were ruled by violence and brutality under the watchful eye of bloodthirsty SS guards.
By early 1943, slave labor made up more than half of the total workforce (3,400 people) at AFA’s Hannover factory. As many as 403 people lost their lives in the battery-making complex, where captives were refused protective clothing from the poisonous fumes and shot indiscriminately. Those who contracted lead poisoning, with symptoms such as severe colic, were forced to keep working, despite searing pain.
One sadistic guard was prone to beating ‘the prisoners with his wooden club, who weren’t working fast enough for him,’ an eyewitness later testified. ‘When the women who worked at the battery plant watched, he beat the prisoners particularly brutally, to show off.’
Accidents were common at the AFA factory. Limbs were often amputated in the event they were marred by third-degree burns while handling the boiling hot lead. One man, later, attested to seeing a worker’s hands get stuck in the machinery, ‘while fully conscious — the flesh was largely pulled off their bones up to their upper arms.’
Harald (pictured center) joined the war effort as a lieutenant in the Luftwaffe. He was the only child of Magda Goebbels seven offspring that survived the war. As the Allies closed in, the Goebbels poisoned their children with cyanide before omitting suicide in Hitler’s bunker. Despite being the stepson of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Harald never officially joined the Nazi party and was therefore not required to go through denazification like his father and half brother
Despite his love for Harald, Goebbels hated his father, whom he called a ‘tactless lout.’ Later his opinion of Gunther softened when the industrialist gave money to the Nazi Party. ‘The smart, energetic, brutal capitalist has come over to us completely,’ wrote the propaganda minister in his journal. ‘As he should — and give money, too. I get 2,000 [marks]. That’s for the prisoners and wounded. For my people, I’ll take it’
The bride wore black: Magda and Goebbels’s wedding ceremony took place on December 19, 1931, with her son Harald Quandt, on hand for the festivities. The marriage took place on Gunther’s country estate, without his permission- by then Magda, a ‘mad Nazi groupie’ had turned her ex-husband’s beloved getaway into an SS stronghold
With Allied forces approaching, Günther’s Hannover plant shut down in late March 1945. Factory management burned all files, except for a list of prisoners’ names.
Around the same time, about 1,000 of AFA’s subcamp prisoners who were deemed ‘fit enough’ were forced to walk a death march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Those who were left behind suffered a worse fate: after a botched evacuation, an SS commander locked the captives in a nearby barn and set it on fire. One week later, American soldiers discovered the charred bodies of 1,016 people.
After the war, Günther was arrested for suspected collaboration with the Nazis, only to be acquitted after falsely claiming that he had been forced to join the party by Goebbels.
First, he went underground in Bavaria for one year, until the Americans interned him for two years in 1946. He was exonerated in 1950 through a lengthy denazification trial, charged 29,500 duetsch marks and set free.
Günther died in 1954, leaving his $135 million fortune ($1.4 billion in today’s money) to be divided between his two sons, Harald and his half-brother Herbert. The siblings continued to expand the family’s substantial fortune.
Harald was the only child of Magda Goebbels’ seven kids to survive the war. Rather than face loss, her and Dr. Goebbels poisoned their offspring before shooting themselves in Hitler’s bunker. Today, his branch of the family runs a home office outside Frankfurt that manages their $18 billion nest egg in a sleek ‘bungalow-type’ building decorated with Andy Warhol portraits of their parents.
Decades later, the scions of Harald and Herbert continue to champion the successes of their fathers and hide the many unsightly lapses in morality that made them fantastically rich.
Rather than hold Herbert accountable for building concentration camps, he is heralded for ‘saving’ BMW from bankruptcy after he purchased the struggling company in 1960 with his ill-gotten gains.
In a controversial 2008 interview, his daughter Susanne Klatten touched upon her Nazi past with filial devotion: ‘I will never lose respect for my father. No one can judge what it was like to live back then.’
Today, she and her brother, Stefan Quandt, are the richest siblings in Germany – worth an estimated $49 billion (as of 2021) with their 47 percent majority stake in BMW plus the pharmaceuticals and chemicals company formerly known as Byk Gulden.
In 2019, despite lagging share prices, their dividends in BMW alone amounted to $1 billion dollars.
Herbert was exonerated by a ‘denazification panel’ in 1947, despite the fact that he was a voluntary Nazi Party member who was involved with multiple Aryanizations in France, helped plan and build a sub–concentration camp, and was responsible for staffing at one of his father’s battery factories in which hundreds of female concentration-camp prisoners were abused
Herbert’s daughter, Susanne Klatten is the richest woman in Germany. In a controversial 2008 interview, she said: ‘I will never lose respect for my father. No one can judge what it was like to live back then’
The family’s little-known Nazi history remained virtually unknown until a 2007 German TV documentary exposed their secret that aired all their dirty laundry: the use of slave labor, and Aryanizations of Jewish property.
Within days, the Quandts commissioned their own investigation by a historian which confirmed the allegations, but even then the family kept Gunther’s name on their HQ building outside Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, Stefan, who insists his father was never a ‘convinced’ Nazi, still awards an annual journalism prize named after Herbert, a man, who De Jong says had ‘an almost pathological inclination for secrecy.’
It was only last October that the prize’s website was finally amended to mention his Nazi era activities but still leaves out that he built a concentration camp, snapped up Jewish businesses and used POWs as virtual slaves on his private estate.
BMW’s charity arm is actually called the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt and, likewise, its official website makes no mention of any connection with the Third Reich.
THE ULTRA RECLUSIVE REIMANN FAMILY – NET WORTH $39 BILLION, OWNERS OF PRET A MANGER, KRISPY KREME, AND KYLIE JENNER’S COSMETIC COMPANY
For a moment in 2019, the Quandt family was briefly eclipsed in wealth by the ultra secretive Reimann dynasty.
At the time, ‘No picture of a Reimannn heir had ever become public. No one even knew where the family lived,’ says De Jong.
Four reclusive shareholders control Joh. A. Benckiser (JAB), a consumer goods investment firm that has spent more than $50 billion since 2012 to acquire beloved American food and beverage brands such as Snapple, Dr Pepper, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Peet’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Keurig Green Mountain, Panera Bread, and Pret A Manger.
They also own Coty, a luxury cosmetic conglomerate that includes the beauty lines for brands like Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Chloe, COVERGIRL, Rimmel and Kylie Cosmetics.
The company dates back to 1823 when its core business was industrial chemicals, but their controversial history begins with Albert Reimann, who is father of the current heirs in charge.
His dark history came to light in 2018, when the Mail on Sunday uncovered Albert’s Nazi membership card in a German archive, just as the company was in the middle of a $2 billion acquisition of Pret A Manger, the global sandwich chain founded by a Jewish entrepreneur.
Later it was discovered that Albert, his sister Else, and their father were early believers in the Nazi cause and virulent anti-Semites.
Father and son began donating to the SS in 1931 and successively joined Ludwighafen’s city council, representing the Nazi Party.
The ultra-reclusive Reimann family is worth an estimated $39 billion for their shares in JAB, a consumer goods investment firm that has spent more than $50 billion since 2012 to acquire beloved American food and beverage brands such as Snapple, Dr Pepper, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Peet’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Keurig Green Mountain, Panera Bread, and Pret A Manger
The controversial chapter of the Reimann family history begins with Albert Reimann, who is the father of the current heirs in charge. His previously unknown Nazi past was uncovered in 2018, when the Mail on Sunday uncovered Albert’s Nazi membership card in a German archive, just as the company was in the middle of a $2 billion acquisition of Pret A Manger, the global sandwich chain founded by a Jewish entrepreneur
The Reimann’s fortune dates back to 1823 when their grandfather established an industrial chemicals business in Pforzheim, Germany. That company eventually became Reckitt Benckiser, the consumer products giant manufactures brands like Lysol and AirWick. In 2012, four Reimann scions channeled their dividends from their shares in the Reckitt company, to establish ‘JAB’ as their own personal investment firm with a strategy that focuses on coffee, carbs, beauty, and luxury goods
In July 1937, Albert wrote a letter to Heinrich Himmler, saying, ‘We are a purely Aryan family business that is over 100 years old. The owners are unconditional followers of the race theory.’ Albert Reimann was 38 at the time and working as the firm’s chief executive. His sister Else married an SS officer.
In 2018, the German newspaper, Bild, found that 30 percent of the Reimanns’ workforce (roughly 175 people) at their chemicals plant, consisted of forced labor or French POWs by 1943.
Albert Reimann Jr: Nazi. Fourth generation CEO of industrial chemicals company.
Emily Landecker: Albert’s long-term mistress, with whom he had three children.
Wolfgang, Matthias, Stefan and Renate Reimann: Albert’s children who together now own 95% of JAB Holding Company which is worth an estimated $39 billion for its stake in Coty Cosmetics and consumer brands like Pret A Manger, Dr Pepper, and Krispy Kreme
The firm’s factory foreman brutally abused these workers and even tortured a Russian woman in the coal cellar of Albert’s private villa.
Meanwhile Albert was known to encourage mistreatment. His foreman would order female coerced laborers to stand naked outside their barracks in the middle of the night so he could grope them. During an Allied air raid in 1945, the foreman kicked dozens of workers out from the company’s bomb shelters to their death.
Albert was arrested after the war and held in an internment camp. His assets were seized until he appealed his sentence to the Americans who eventually classified him as a ‘Nazi follower’ in his denazification trial. He paid a small fine and his company was returned to him in whole.
Their family history took a more bizarre twist in 2019, when they discovered that Albert’s decades-long mistress, Emily Landecker, (with whom he fathered three children), was Jewish. She worked for the chemical-company tycoon before they began their affair in 1941. One year later, Landecker’s father was a victim of Hitler’s mass extermination of Jews.
Two of their children are current shareholders in the billion dollar JAB empire. ‘They were the product of perpetrator and victim,’ explains De Jong, ‘And their story involved both reckoning and grief.’
They recalled to the New York Times in 2019, how their father told them that French POWs were ‘often given some red wine on Saturdays’ and that ‘forced laborers had loved the company so much, they cried when the conflict ended and they had to leave.’
Albert’s children, had only learned of their family’s skeletons in the closet for the first time in 2019, when they commissioned a historian to research their shameful history.
Unlike many other German families with checkered pasts, the Reimanns opted to be transparent with their findings.
They renamed their family foundation to honor their their Jewish grandfather who had been murdered by the Nazis, with a mission focus on educating people about the Holocaust. They signaled their commitment to this goal with a colossal $300 million endowment every ten years, in perpetuity.
The family has also made efforts to track down survivors of forced labor at the family firm, and compensate them for the abuse they suffered.
THE PORSCHE-PIECH FAMILY – NET WORTH $21 BILLION, VOLKSWAGEN GROUP (Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen)
Ferdinand Porsche is best remembered as the designer of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle and founder of his eponymous sports car company that pulls in roughly $250 billion in annual revenue.
But often missing from the company’s founding history is the mention of an early Jewish backer named Adolf Rosenberger, who was Aryanized out of his 10% stake in the company by Porsche and his pugnacious son-in-law, Anton Piëch.
Rosenberger was a retired racecar driver and the firm’s primary investor and fundraiser until 1935 when his shares were taken over by Ferdinand’s ambitious 25-year-old son, Ferry Porsche. In exchange for his founding stake, Rosenberger was paid a fraction of its true value, just 3,000 Reichsmarks, which was the same amount of money he originally invested in the company years earlier.
‘They used my membership as a Jew to get rid of me cheaply,’ Rosenberger said later.
The VW group is ranked seventh the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies
Ferdinand Porsche is best remembered as the designer of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle and founder of his eponymous sports car company. But often missing from the car firms official record is how he helped build up the Nazi war machine as Hitler’s ‘favorite engineer.’ His son and successor, Ferry (right) had voluntarily applied to the SS in December 1938 and was admitted as an officer in 1941
Porsche and his pugnacious son-in-law, Anton Piëch, Aryanized their Jewish co-founder’s 10% stake in the car design firm for a fraction of its true value. Rosenberger was a retired racecar driver who was the company’s financial backer and fundraiser. He was pushed out of the business in 1935, and his shares were transferred to Porsche’s ambitious 25-year-old son and successor. ‘They used my membership as a Jew to get rid of me cheaply,’ Rosenberger later said
Five weeks after the takeover, Rosenberger was arrested by the Gestapo and charged with ‘race defilement’ for dating a gentile girl. When he appealed to his former colleagues to ‘help save his life’ – Porsche and Piëch did nothing. Rosenberger was placed in a concentration camp where he endured four days of beatings before he was finally released.
Ferdinand Porsche: Patriarch. Creator of Volkswagen and Porsche. Nazi collaborator.
Anton Piëch: Ferdinand’s son-in-law and co-founder of the car company.
Ferry Porsche: Ferdinand’s son and successor. SS officer.
Ferdinand, Gerhard, Hans-Peter, and Wolfgang Porsche: Children of Ferry. The car dynasty’s third generation that currently splits the family business with their Piëch cousins.
Ernst, Louise, Ferdinand, and Hans Piech: Children of Anton. Third generation Piëchs that divide the family business with the Porsches.
Rosenberger fled to America in 1940 where he changed his name to Alan Robert and settled in Los Angeles penniless.
Meanwhile, Porsche sold the car-crazy dictator on his design for the Volkswagen Beetle, ‘the people’s car’ and in 1938 the Hitler presided over the groundbreaking for a giant factory at Werhard
The carmaker had only produced 630 Beetles before he switched to designing jeeps, tanks, bazookas, and bombs to help shore up the Wehrmacht’s military might on the eve of war.
Ferdinand’s son and successor, Ferry, had voluntarily applied to the SS in December 1938 and was admitted as an officer in 1941. (In a subsequent Allied investigation, he falsely claimed that he was forced to join by Himmler, and maintained that lie for the rest of his life).
Porsche was able to meet the Fuhrer’s demands through forced labor that was brought in from occupied countries and concentration camps. Some 20,000 slaves – many of them women and mothers – manned the Volkswagen factories, while 800 Jewish blacksmiths were hand selected from Auschwitz to work on the V-1 flying bomb.
Ferry focused on running the design operation in Stuttgart, while his brother-in-law, Anton Piëch ran day-to-day operations at the plants in what De Jong describes as a ‘reign of terror.’
Mothers were forced to give up their babies immediately after birth, and the newborns were moved to the ‘Nursery for Foreign Children’ in a village nearby where at least 365 Polish and Russian babies died.
The conditions in the nursery ‘defied belief,’ a British prosecutor later explained. ‘At night the bugs came out of the walls of those barracks and literally covered the children’s faces and bodies… Some children had as many as 30 to 40 boils or carbuncles on their bodies.’
One day before American soldiers arrived in April 1945, Anton Piëch, absconded the complex with more than ten million reichsmarks in cash from the Volkswagen coffers. This money became ‘the financial foundation for the successful post-war development of the house of Porsche,’ said one historian in the book.
Later, while awaiting his denazification trial, Piëch had the audacity to write to his former Jewish business partner asking for $1,000 to help him and Porsche make bail.
Car engineer Porsche presents Nazi leader Adolf Hitler with a model car during celebrations for Hitler’s 50th birthday in 1939
After Rosenberger fled to America penniless, Porsche sold the car-crazy dictator on his design for the Volkswagen Beetle, ‘the people’s car’ and in 1938 the Hitler presided over the groundbreaking for a giant factory at Wolfsburg that is, even today, home to the Volkswagen Group
Rosenberger filed for restitution in 1948, to which he was offered a settlement of 50,000 deutsch marks (or $144,000) plus a car of his choice: the luxury version of the Volkswagen Beetle or a Porsche 356. His lawyer accepted the meager settlement without consulting him. Rosenberger chose the Volkswagen Beetle.
A denazification court eventually exonerated the car designer ‘whom Hitler had once considered his favorite engineer,’ in August 1949. His lawyers argued: ‘Professor Porsche has always been only a technician, a designer . . . political issues of the day were and still are completely outside his sphere of thought.’
With their assets unfrozen, Ferry Porsche and Anton Piech took over the company and negotiated a one percent licensing fee on every Beetle sold with the acting British-appointed executive of Volkswagen. They also negotiated exclusive rights to import Volkswagens from their newly incorporated base in Salzburg, which later became Austria’s largest car dealership and was sold back to Volkswagen for $4.6 billion in 2011.
Ferry actively recruited out-of-work former SS officers to join the company. One such employee had been convicted of massacring 84 American prisoners of war, and another, Baron Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, had been reprimanded by an SS court for attempted rape before he was appointed as the head of global public relations at Porsche.
In a 1976 memoir, Ferry showed little remorse about his actions and claimed Rosenberger attempted to extort his family for more money after the war. Playing the pity card, he wrote: ‘As bad as these events were for Rosenberger at the time, under the circumstances we always behaved fair and correct towards him. For us, too, the situation was anything but easy back then.’
The car-making anti-Semite died in his sleep at age 88 in 1998.
The Porsche and Piech dynasty today are worth $21 billion and control the Volkswagen Group, which includes Bentley, Audi, Lamborghini, Seat and Skoda.
They have never publicly addressed their forebears’ activities under the Third Reich. Instead, they funded a 2017 study that delved into their controversial origins which resulted in a final report that suspiciously downplayed its mistreatment of Rosenberger. De Jong dismissed it as a deliberate ‘whitewashing’ of their history.
Conveniently, one year after Stuttgart University published their ‘PR-approved’ findings, they received an endowment for Germany’s first-ever professorship of corporate history from the Ferry Porsche Foundation – whose mission statement, ironically, is to ‘reinforce a commitment to social responsibility.’
THE OETKER FAMILY, COMBINED NET WORTH $21 BILLION, ‘FROZEN PIZZA SCIONS’ WERE IN HEINRICH HIMMLER’S CLOSE ‘CIRCLE OF FRIENDS’
Known as the ‘Bavarian Pillsbury’ – Dr. Oetker is a multinational conglomerate that includes baking ingredients, frozen foods, beer, and luxury hotels.
The company dates back to 1891 when a pharmacist named Dr. August Oetker invented long lasting baking soda that he packaged into individual servings, and added to boxed pudding mixes. He died before his son, Rudolf-August Oetker was able to take over the business.
In the interim, Rudolf’s step-father, Richard Kaselowsky, a virulent anti-Semite stepped in as chief executive. ‘His main task, besides serving as CEO, was to prepare Rudolf-August Oetker, his teenage stepson and the designated company heir, to one day succeed him.’
‘What Kaselowsky lacked in business stature, he made up in zeal for Hitler,’ writes De Jong. ‘He handed out signed copies of Mein Kampf to new employees and hung a portrait of the Führer in his office suite.’
During Kaselowsky’s reign at Dr. Oetker, the family had benefited from Aryanizations, arms production, the use of forced and slave labor, and close collaboration with the SS and the Wehrmacht to provide soldiers with better nutrition and powdered food supplements.
Dr. Oetker is a multinational conglomerate that includes baking ingredients, frozen foods, beer, and luxury hotels. The company dates back to 1891 when a pharmacist named Dr. August Oetker invented long lasting baking soda that he packaged into individual servings, and added to boxed pudding mixes
Dr. Oetker’s sole male heir, Rudolf-August was too young when he inherited the family business from his father. In the interim, his step-father, Richard Kaselowsky stepped in as chief executive. The virulent anti-Semite capitalized on his association to Heinrich Himmler’s ‘Circle of Friends’ and sales more than doubled during the war. By 1942, more than half a billion packages of the firm’s famous baking powder and pudding mixes were sold throughout Nazi Germany
Dr. Oetker had an official baking-powder monopoly in the German Reich and was one of Hitler’s frontline suppliers. The company’s baking products were being shipped to German soldiers fighting across Europe. Europe. Dr. Oetker also participated in a nutritional joint venture with the Wehrmacht to send nourishing dried fruits and vegetables to German troops on the front line
Rudolf-August, ‘the pudding prince’ was a known party boy who much preferred spending his free time on breeding horses and expensive hobbies than he did studying how to run the family’s food empire. ‘The most valuable thing I inherited is the Oetker name,’ he once said. Later, he joined the Waffen-SS as an officer in 1943, and trained at Dachau concentration camp
Kaselowsky officially joined the Nazi party in May 1933 and subsequently became a member of Heinrich Himmler’s ‘Circle of Friends’ – an association of businessmen and networking Nazis that ran the SS.
Richard Kaselowsky: Patriarch. Former CEO of Dr. Oetker. Nazi sympathizer. Stepfather to Rudolf-August Oetker.
Rudolf-August Oetker: Sole male heir of the Dr. Oetker food conglomerate. Waffen-SS officer.
August Oetker: Eldest son of Rudolf-August, and current CEO of the family business. He is one of eight children from three different wives that inherited a 12.5% stake in the Oetker family fortune.
Carl Oetker and Julia Oetker: Rudolf-August’s youngest children who fell out with their older siblings over their father’s Nazi past. Both own a 12.5% stake in the $21b Oetker company.
Himmler’s bloodthirsty paramilitary organization was central to the planning and execution of the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, young Rudolf-August, ‘the pudding prince’ was a known party boy who much preferred spending his free time on breeding horses and expensive hobbies than he did studying how to run the family’s food empire. ‘The most valuable thing I inherited is the Oetker name,’ he once said.
After high school, Rudolf-August moved into a lakeside villa that was Aryanized from a Jewish family. He added to his compound by seizing another neighboring plot of land owned by a different Jewish couple.
Despite being chums with prominent Jews in Hamburg, the privileged heir was indifferent to their plight. He knew about the concentration camps but accepted the regime’s line that the camps only held enemies of the state. ‘We thought nothing more of it,’ he said.
‘But the heir had gotten to know concentration camps much better than he let on,’ claims De Jong.
He joined the Waffen-SS as an officer in 1943, and trained at Dachau. He later, falsely claimed that the school had been ‘shielded’ from the neighboring prisoner camp, alleging they were separate entities, and that he hadn’t ‘noticed anything . . . of the ordeals’ at Dachau.
Kaselowsky diversified the Oetker’s holdings by snapping up Jewish business in packaging, publishing, banking, and shipping. Most prominent among them was a Berlin brewery owned by Ignatz Nacher, that was ‘brutally Aryanized’ and remains in the Oetker family today as the Radeberger Group, Germany’s largest beer conglomerate.
British forces arrested Rudolf August at the end of the war and held him in a prisoner camp until denazification hearings exonerated him of wrongdoing. He claimed that he was merely ‘guilty by association’ as the successor to his Nazi stepfather, Richard Kaselowsky.
In 1947, he was permitted to return to the family business.
Rudolf August died in 2007, the last of the Nazi billionaires, at age 90, leaving eight children from three marriages with an equal 12.5 percent stake in the Oetker Group which brings in $15 billion in revenue annually.
British forces arrested Rudolf August at the end of the war and held him in a prisoner camp until denazification hearings exonerated him of wrongdoing. He claimed that he was merely ‘guilty by association’ as the successor to his Nazi stepfather, Richard Kaselowsky and falsely testified that his Waffen SS training school at Dachau had been ‘shielded’ from the neighboring prisoner camp, and that he hadn’t ‘noticed anything . . . of the ordeals’ at Dachau. He was permitted to return to the family business in 1947. The baker baron died in 2007, at age 90, leaving eight children from three marriages with an equal 12.5 percent stake in the Oetker Group which brings in $15 billion in revenue annually
August-Rudolf’s eldest son and successor August Oetker took over the family food conglomerate as CEO. In 2008, he commissioned a study into his family’s checkered history. ‘My father was a National Socialist,’ he said after the report was published, ‘Now the fog is being lifted.’ He also admitted that his father was a confirmed Nazi, long after the war was over
In addition to a diverse portfolio of assets, the Oetkers own a luxury chain of the world’s most exclusive hotels like Hotel du Cap- Eden- Roc (pictured). Le Bristol Paris, and The Brenners Park Spa Hotel in Baden- Baden, Germany
The Oetker’s hospitality division contains 11 renown hotels around the world, including the Lanesborough Hotel in London (above)
In a move that would inevitably fracture the relationships between the eight siblings, Rudolf’s children commissioned an investigation into his disreputable Nazi history in 2008.
While the older set welcomed a spotlight into their father’s dubious past, Rudolf’s youngest three heirs criticized the 624 page report that stated: ‘Kaselowsky, and with him the family and the Oetker company, bore responsibility for the political system in which they lived. They were pillars of Nazi society, they sought proximity to the regime, and profited from its policies.’
As of July 2021, the family announced that they were splitting the Dr. Oetker empire into two independent groups.
Meanwhile, the Oetker descendants still honor their father and grandparents who were confirmed Nazis in two charities bearing their names.
‘But again, you wouldn’t know any of that from reading the foundations’ websites,’ says De Jong. ‘It is yet another dark past that remains obscured.’
THE FLICK FAMILY – NET WORTH $4 BILLION, FORMER OWNERS OF DAIMLER-BENZ, AND DESCEDANTS OF CONVICTED NUREMBERG WAR CRIMINAL
Friedrich Flick was Nazi Germany’s most notorious industrialist. He controlled the largest steel, coal and arms conglomerates during the war and was later sentenced to seven years in prison for ‘crimes against humanity.’ After his early release in 1950, Flick rebuilt his conglomerate and became the controlling shareholder of Daimler-Benz, then Germany’s largest carmaker
Friedrich Flick controlled Germany’s largest coal and arms conglomerate during the Third Reich and was subsequently sentenced to seven years in the Nuremburg Trials for a long rap sheet of ‘crimes against humanity.’
As one historian put it, Flick, is the only convicted Nazi who had the genius and gall ‘to become the richest man in Germany, twice.’
He was found guilty of using forced slave labor, financially supporting the SS and looting a steel factory. After his early release in 1950, Flick rebuilt his conglomerate and became the controlling shareholder of Daimler-Benz, then Germany’s largest carmaker.
In 1985, Deutsche Bank bought the Flick conglomerate for $2.17 billion, making his descendants billionaires.
In 1932, the ruthless industrialist made a ‘devil’s pact’ with Heinrich Himmler to donate lavishly to the SS in exchange for political protection and exclusive access to stolen Jewish assets.
He joined the strongman’s ‘Circle of Friends’ in 1939 and was invited to a guided tour of Dachau concentration camp where he explored the barracks and workshops, where imprisoned tailors, carpenters, toiled away in back breaking conditions.
Flick’s generous donations to the SS funded Himmler’s creepy pet projects, one of which was a ‘man-breeding association in whose maternity homes children were bred for the ‘master race.”
More than any other tycoon, Flick seized on the opportunity to buy-up Aryanized Jewish assets for cut-rate prices. He purchased three stolen estates: one in Bavaria, one near Berlin, and one, a hunting property, in Austria (which is still owned by some of Flick’s grandchildren).
‘Flick’s empire was massive in size and scope,’ explains De Jong. It included coal mines, steel mills and weapons factories, that stretched from occupied Ukraine to France to Nazi Germany.
‘When the Third Reich wanted more arms, Flick had it covered. When it needed more natural resources, he was there to help. Black and brown coal, iron and steel, cannons and shells — he had all the fuel the Nazi war machine required.’
Flick was tried at Nuremberg and found guilty of ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity in 1945. More than any other tycoon, Flick seized on the opportunity to buy-up Aryanized Jewish assets for cut-rate prices. . An investigator assigned to his case called Flick ‘the modern self-made German Robber Baron,’ who ‘was characterized by a perverse desire for absolute power. His industrial rise was based on unscrupulous and ruthless operations; he supported individuals and acts now condemned by an indignant world’
Flick’s youngest son, Friedrich Karl was successor to family business. Unlike his stern, workaholic father, Friedrich Karl enjoyed the trappings of wealth. He jetted between his mansions in Bavaria and Düsseldorf, a hunting estate in Austria, a villa on the Côte d’Azur, a penthouse in New York, a castle near Paris, and a two-hundred-foot yacht named the Diana II. His Munich parties were legendarily debauched
Even in death, Friedrich Karl couldn’t escape the Flick dynasty’s notoriety. In 2008, grave robbers removed the 660-pound coffin containing his body from a mausoleum in the Austrian lakeside town of Velden. They demanded a ransom of six million euros ($7.5 million) from his widow, Ingrid, a petite blonde constantly surrounded by bodyguards. Friedrich Karl’s remains were later recovered in Hungary and reburied in Velden
Friedrich Flick: Patriarch. Industrialist. Convicted war criminal.
Otto-Ernst Flick: Friedrich’s eldest son. Passed over to be his father’s successor.
Rudolf Flick: Friedrich’s favored middle son who was poised to take over the family business until he died in Operation Barbarossa.
Friedrich Karl Flick: Friedrich’s youngest son and eventual successor. Sold family’s Daimler-Benz shares to Deutsche Bank in 1985 for $2.17 billion.
Alexandra and Elizabeth Flick: Daughters of Friedrich Karl’s first marriage who inherited $2 billion each after his death in 2006.
Viktoria-Katharina and Karl-Friedrich Flick: Friedrich Karl’s youngest children who became Twins from Friedrich Karl’s second marriage. They became the world’s youngest billionaires in 2018 when they inherited a portion of their father’s fortune at age 19
By 1943, those forced laborers working at Flick’s coal mines increasingly consisted of women and children deemed fit for work in the open-pit mines. Many were Russian teenagers aged 13 to 15 years old. Roughly half of his work force were captives (about 60,000 to 70,000 people) by the end of the war.
During his trial, the prosecutor argued that Flick was ‘the modern self-made German Robber Baron,’ who ‘was characterized by a perverse desire for absolute power.’
Flick spun his unrepentant Aryanisations into a favorable narrative: they were deals cut to help Jewish business owners escape the Nazis.
The forced laborer’s, his eldest son testified, were housed in rooms that were ‘almost too beautiful,’ the Flick heir declared during one interrogation.
Flick denied the war-crimes for which he was convicted, and remained a confirmed Nazi of for the rest of his life. After completing a shortened prison sentence, he returned to helm his massive conglomerate.
Using the profits from his businesses, Flick acquired majority shares in the car maker Daimler-Benz. By the end of the 1950s, he was Germany’s wealthiest man.
Flick’s youngest son, Friedrich Karl Flick, refused to pay restitution to forced- and slave-labor survivors.
Today a branch of the Flick dynasty, worth about $4 billion, maintains a private foundation in Düsseldorf named after their patriarch. The foundation — which has a seat on a board of one of Germany’s most prestigious universities and directs money to educational, medical and cultural causes, primarily in Germany and Austria.
‘But looking at the foundation’s website,’ says De Jong, ‘You would never learn of the Flick fortune’s tainted past.’