Audi 'Shocked' After Report Finds 20,000 Were Forced to Work in Nazi Labor Camps

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A worker cleans an Audi car at the company's plant in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. March 11, 2013. Credit: Reuters

German automaker Audi expressed "shock" after a report it commissioned revealed the full extent of its use of concentration camp inmate labor during the Nazi era.

Audi, which had previously acknowledged its role in exploiting forced labor, follows BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen in commissioning a report on its activities under Nazi Germany.

The car manufacturer has in the past paid millions of dollars into a fund set up by the German government to compensate victims.

According to the report, some 3,700 people were forced to work in seven factories that were constructed especially for the firm and run by SS officers. About one quarter of these laborers were Jewish.

In addition, some 16,500 people were put to work at the firm's factories in the East German cities Zwickau and Chemnitz.

The report posits that the company holds "moral responsibility" for the deaths of 4,500 prisoners at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Bavaria, who died while working for the company.

“I’m very shocked by the scale of the involvement of the former Auto Union leadership in the system of forced and slave labor,” Audi works council head Peter Mosch told German magazine Wirtschaftswoche.

The report examined the deep connections of Dr. Richard Bruhn, one of Audi's founders, to German Nazi officials. Bruhn, who died in 1964, renewed the firm's operations after the end of WWII using funds allocated via the U.S. Marshal Plan.

The mayor of Ingolstadt, the city out of which Audi operates, has announced he is considering changing the name of the street named after Bruhn.

The 500-page report was prepared by historian Rudolf Boch of the University of Chemnitz, and Martin Kukowski, head of Audi's history department. It was published in book form in Germany.

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