More than 70 years since the fall of the Third Reich, Hitler’s legacy in Germany is all but vanquished, alive only in obscure internet forums and in the offices of investigators trying to catch the last few surviving Nazi war criminals. There is, however, an entire swathe of industrial household names including Krupp AG, BMW and Daimler AG that have an acknowledged history of collaborating with Hitler’s regime, albeit with the understanding that there was really no other option available at the time.
For one powerful and secretive family, there is no such excuse. The Reimann family, which owns controlling stakes in brands like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts owes its entire fortune to Nazism. As far back as 1931 – two years before Hitler even came into power – family patriarch Albert Reimann made donations to the Nazi party, and later made a fortune off Nazi-sanctioned slave labor during the war. Recently forced to confront their ugly past, the Reimann family’s idea of restitution and drawing a line under historical atrocities was to donate the sum of $11 million – about 0.01 percent of their net worth – to an unnamed charity. As Bloomberg reports:
The Reimann family’s charitable gift represents a fraction of its JAB fortune. Five family members — Wolfgang Reimann, Renate Reimann-Haas, Stefan Reimann-Andersen, Matthias Reimann-Andersen and Andrea Reimann-Ciardelli — are worth at least $10 billion combined, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
One thing that immediately jumps out about the story is the reaction to the Nazi origins of the family fortune. Quoted in Bloomberg, a family spokesperson revealed that their decision to donate $11 million was “spontaneous, because the family was absolutely ashamed.” This mirrors the response of the banking industry to the 2008 crash it caused. Instead of taking responsibility and accepting consequences such as insolvencies, the response was to make a few mealy-mouthed apologies, get bailed out and then start moaning about being scapegoated.
The idea that a wealthy and powerful family that once held a controlling stake in Benckiser NV, was somehow not aware of the origins of the family’s wealth is utterly laughable, especially when it was well known colloquially. Moreover, a historian was commissioned to probe their ancestry early in the past decade, but the full report will not be made available until 2020. In other words, having failed to conceal the fact of their origins satisfactorily, the Reimanns have commissioned an elaborate pretense to stall complete disclosure and to somehow make themselves the victim of the story.
The victims are not the hundreds of French and Russian slave workers provided by the Nazis, whom Albert Reimann once complained didn’t work fast enough. The victims of this story are not the families of the unfortunate men conscripted by Hitler’s regime to work unpaid for private businesses like Reimann’s chemical company. The victims are not even the thousands of Allied soldiers who sacrificed their lives to free Germany from Hitler’s yoke. The victims are the poor little Reimanns, who are “ashamed” of their $60 billion global empire and personal wealth of at least $10 billion. Just not ashamed enough to actually, you know, let go of a substantial part of it.
It is one thing to profess shame and penitence when confronted with the ugly truth about your family’s complicity and profiteering off war crimes. It is quite another thing altogether to back the words up with action. In this case, a family of billionaires has decided that their overt and enthusiastic role in the 20th century’s worst crime – a crime that led to the death of more than 50 million people and the subsequent destabilization of the Middle East – is only worth 0.01 percent of their net worth.
Presumably, the damage their family’s actions caused and enabled has been independently and comprehensively analyzed and placed at $11 million. If not, at least they get to keep their wealth and move on regardless. The families of thousands of innocent Russian and French slave laborers kidnapped by Nazis and worked to death by the Reimanns and other Nazi collaborators will just have to make do with their thoughts and prayers.
Last modified: March 26, 2019 12:57 UTC