BMW’s Nazi Billions

On the first of September 2022 – eighty-three years after Nazi Germany attacked Poland, a parliamentary committee in Poland has filed its estimate of the economic damage caused by Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation in World War II. The parliamentary committee found that the losses amounted to 6.2 trillion zlotys, roughly US$1.32 trillion or €1.32 trillion – €1,320,000,000,000.00.

During Germany’s occupation of Poland, many of those whom the Nazis called Untermenschen – the non-Aryan sub-human – were enslaved in Germany’s factories. One of such German factories was BMW. While Polish, Russian, Jewish, and other slave laborers suffered, others got rich – very rich. Today, Susanne Klatten (née Quandt), a German businesswoman, heiress and part-owner of BMW, is Germany’s richest woman – valued at $24bn. Klatten is part of the Quandt family.

Much of the Quandt’s wealth is linked to a cold February morning in 1933 when about two dozen of Nazi Germany’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen gathered to meet super-Nazi Hermann Göring. Among them was Günther Quandt, a textile producer turned arms and battery tycoon and grand-daddy of Susanne Klatten.

Also present at the meeting were Friedrich Flick, a steel magnate and Nazi supporter; Baron August von Finck, a Bavarian finance mogul; Kurt Schmitt, CEO of the insurance behemoth Allianz; executives from the chemicals’ conglomerate IG Farben – responsible for Auschwitz and Zyklon B – and the potash giant Wintershall; and, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, chairman-through-marriage of the Krupp steel empire and a Nazi financier. They all agreed to what Adolf Hitler told them,

private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy.

With their money and the support by Germany’s conservatives – von Papen, Neurath, Gürtner, Krosigk, Blomberg, Schacht, Hugenberg, etc. – Adolf Hitler was made Reichskanzler. The money of German capitalists was highly welcomed, particularly since Hitler’s Nazi party was more than twelve million Reichsmarks in debt – the Nazis were basically bankrupt. Once furnished with plenty of corporate money, the Nazis could dress the SA in uniform, drive them around in trucks, and engage in beatings, torture, and murder. Nazi thugs were generously supported by both Germany’s police and court system.

Long before all that, Susanne Klatten’s (nee Quandt) grandfather managed to avoid military service during World War I. Dying is not for capitalists – it is for others. Roughly a decade after WWI, grandfather Günther married the dashy Magda Friedländer (1929) who became Magda Quandt.

Not long after that, the soon-to-be First Lady of the Nazi Reich, Magda Quandt became part of the Nordic Ring which was frequented by early believers in Aryan master race. The Nordic Ring was an elite and very racial debating club in Berlin patronized by many German aristocrats and the wealthy.

This is where Madga first met a young upstart called Joseph Goebbels – a failed fiction writer. Madga was inflamed and on 1st September 1930, she joined the Nazi Party.

Around the same time her husband, Günther Quandt joined the Society for the Study of Fascism – another debate group with about two hundred members discussing (read: admiring) Italian fascism as practiced by Benito Mussolini. After her divorce from Günther Quandt, Madga married Joseph Goebbels – becoming Magda Goebbels, the First Lady of Hitler’s Reich and a brutal killer of all her children – except Harald Quandt who died in 1967.

Yet, on 4th Febrary 1931, Günther and Magda met Hitler for the first time. Magda and Günther’s son Harald Quandt once greeted Hitler with, the youngest Hitler youth in Germany is reporting to his Führer! – Nazism was running deep in the Quandt family, who today owns BMW.

The feeling was mutual, Hitler loved Harald idolatrously as Goebbles took him on a two-day SA march in Braunschweig. At the march, more than 100,000 people, including tens of thousands of SA and SS men took part in the rally. It was the largest paramilitary march ever held in Germany.

In his diary, Goebbels described Harald at the event, Harald looks so sweet in his new SA uniform. Indeed, the son of a capitalist –whose daddy finances Hitler – always look so sweet in his SA uniform. Yet, the SA remains one of the most brutal killer organizations that Germany has ever seen, apart from the SS.

Meanwhile, German capitalists and Hitler aimed to boost the economy through rearmament of the military. This was a very welcoming news for weapons’ producers like Günther Quandt. On 11th December 1931, Goebbels documented one of Günther’s visit, Günther Quandt came in the evening. He wants to give money to the party.

Günther Quandt also attended the two-hour speech by Goebbels. Meanwhile, his son Harald Quandt continued to remain popular with top-Nazis. Perhaps, because the boy was tall and blond and a good showpiece for Nazi leaders who themselves didn’t exactly have the appearance of an Aryan – Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler were neither tall nor blond, nor of athletic build.

But the Quant family wasn’t just about appearance. Harald’s daddy – Günther Quandt – joined the Nazi Party on that Labor Day in 1933, receiving membership number 2,636,406. Typically, he later claimed that Goebbels had coerced him. Yet, the reality was rather different from Quandt’s post-war lie.

In his diary, Goebbels noted at the time that he had received Günther at his office on Friday, 28th April 1933, noting the complete opposite of Günther’s story, Quandt was eager to join the NSDAP.

Perhaps German philosopher Max Horkheimer was not entirely wrong when saying, whoever is not willing to talk about capitalism should also keep quiet about fascism. There was an inextricable link between German capitalism and Nazism – one is unthinkable without the other. In fact, without one’s money, the other might have never gotten into power.

Herbert Quandt also signed up as a supporting member of the SS. Yet, father and son – Günther and Harald were not alone when it comes to supporting and enabling the Nazis. Not too long after that – on 28th July 1941 – Nazi party member Günther Quandt celebrated his sixtieth birthday with a grand dinner for 130 men at the Hotel Esplanade, one of Berlin’s famed luxury hotels. Meanwhile, plenty of corporate bosses had been gorging on forced labor, on Jewish companies that they seized with impunity – in a process the Nazis called Aryanization.

Unsurprisingly, corporate boss Günther Quandt was awarded the Nazi title, Wehrwirtschaftsführer, military economy leader – a kind of business Führer. Nazi Günther Quandt reciprocated with gratitude.

While not yet in the business of making BMWs, Günther Quandt profited in other ways. Günther’s weapons firm – DWM – was manufacturing millions of bullets, rifles, and the infamous Luger pistol for the Wehrmacht. Its stock price would soon skyrocket by a whopping 300%. It paid off to be a Nazi.

Günther Quandt was also close to Leopold Gutterer who had replaced Karl Hanke, Goebbels’s most trusted aide over the past decade. Now Gutterer was just weeks away from introducing a new policy affecting the entire German Reich: the mandatory labeling of Jews with the yellow Star of David. That was for the Untermensch. For Aryan Herrnmensch Quandt, it was a 300% increase in profits.

And things got even better under Nazi rule – just not for Quandt’s slave labor – but for Quandt himself. As a birthday present, Deutsche Bank presented Günther Quandt with a seat on Daimler-Benz’s supervisory board kick-starting Quandt’s entry into the car industry. At that occasion, Deutsche Bank’s boss Hermann Josef Abs said, your most outstanding characteristic is your faith in Germany and the Führer.

Worse, Günther Quandt, had also shared some personal observations on – as he said in his own words, the principle of the pure race. Just as many German corporate bosses and Nazi leaders, Günther Quandt too, was a strong believer in the pure Aryan race. The irrationality of racism also shaped their business dealings. The author David De Jong writes,

at least twelve million foreigners were forced to work in Germany during the war: men and women, boys and girls.

Two and a half million of them died there, many after being subjected to horrific work and living conditions. IG Farben, Siemens, Daimler-Benz, BMW, Krupp, and various companies controlled by Günther Quandt and Friedrich Flick were some of the largest private-industry users of forced and slave labor … [their companies would] “lease” each enslaved prisoner from the SS for a daily fee of four or six Reichsmarks, depending on the person’s capabilities.

Slave labor collaborations between SS-run concentration camps and German companies included Auschwitz with IG Farben, Dachau with BMW, Sachsenhausen with Daimler-Benz, Ravensbrück with Siemens, and Neuengamme with Günther’s AFA, Porsche’s Volkswagen, and Dr. Oetker.

By spring of 1944, Günther Quandt’s factory had made about 400 million infantry bullets at a factory where at least 75 slave laborers were executed. One year later – on 18th April 1945 – the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and predecessor of the CIA assessed Nazi party member Quandt stating that his wealth had greatly expanded since Hitler’s rise to power.

In the immediate years of post-Nazi Germany and as standard practice for almost all profiteering corporate bosses, Günther Quandt got off lightly. He received a De-Nazification certifying Persilschein – a Persil ticket, named after a famous German laundry detergent. It was a tongue-in-cheek term for any statement that meant to be washed clean of the “stain”(!) of Nazi collaboration and sympathies.

By the end of the decade, many convicted Nazi war criminals were once again on top. They were among Germany’s wealthiest man. On 27th December 1954, Günther Quandt traveled to Egypt for a holiday – unlike his victims.

Already in the year 1953, West Germany’s economy had quadrupled. The denazified corporate tycoons and their heirs in the West entered an epoch of unfathomable wealth. These tycoons left their heirs with firms and fortunes worth billions. With their combined wealth estimated to be at around $43bn (2018), among them are the BMW-owning Quandts.

Thomas Klikauer is the author of German Conspiracy Fantasies.