Marking its centennial, car maker BMW has apologized for its cooperation with the Nazis during World War II, when it used forced labor from concentration camps and elsewhere.
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“As well as its many successes, the BMW Group has faced several major crises and challenges during its history,” the Munich-based company said in a statement this week.
BMW was founded in 1916 as a maker of airplane engines. During World War I it switched to railroad and motorcycle equipment, and in the late ‘20s to cars.
During the Nazi era, like many other companies, it profited from the exploitation of Jewish and non-Jewish slave laborer.
“Under the National Socialist regime of the 1930s and 40s, BMW AG operated exclusively as a supplier to the German arms industry,” the company said.
“As demand for BMW aero engines increased, forced laborers, convicts and prisoners from concentration camps were recruited to assist with manufacturing them. To this day, the enormous suffering this caused and the fate of many forced laborers remains a matter of the most profound regret.”
BMW began confronting its past in the ‘80s; in 1999 it was a founding member of the Remembrance, Responsibility and Future foundation, which pays reparations to former forced laborers.
BMW said it was “explicitly facing up to this dark chapter of its past.”
The Quandt family, which gained a controlling stake in BMW in 1960, also had ties to the Nazi regime during World War II.
The 2007 documentary “The Silence of the Quandts,” partly based on research funded by the family, revealed that the Quandts’ munitions factories employed tens of thousands of forced laborers.