The Silence of the Quandts part 1/7

Uploaded by originalrhombus on 16.05.2010

The Bavarian Motor Works -
The success story of this automobile giant is tightly bound to this family,
the Quandts,
the wealthiest family in Germany.
Estimated net worth:
20 Billion Euros.
We live a completely normal life,
the same as any other family.
There is scarcely another family in Germany
that is so influential,
and yet at the same time,
so discreet.
Only very few photographs of them exist.
Public statements are rare.
Of course, it comes with a lot of responsibility.
We work a lot.
The Quandts avoid the media
and are silent -
also when it comes to their own family history.
Honourable modesty?
Or a deliberate effort...
to keep certain things hidden?
Our efforts to withdraw,
to stay out of the headlines,
to stay out of the limelight,
have proven worth it.
There is hardly another global corporation
that can match the profit growth
of the automaker from Munich.
With over 100,000 employees,
the company has an annual sales volume of over 49 Billion Euros.
In the background, a family pulls the strings -
a family that avoids nothing more than public attention:
the Quandts.
Johanna Quandt is the head of the family.
As majority shareholders,
they have de facto control of BMW.
Son Stefan is, in addition,
owner of the multi-billion-Euro Delton corporation,
and a member of BMW's board of directors.
As is his sister, Susanne Klatten,
the richest woman in Germany.
For a long time, she had a share in drug maker Altana.
It was Johanna Quandt's husband,
Herbert Quandt,
who made BMW into what it is today.
In the 1950s,
Herbert Quandt was already one of the richest men in Germany.
In 1960, he used his fortune to rescue BMW from bankruptcy.
BMW became a huge, global company,
and synonymous with the wealth of the Quandt family.
When Quandt died in 1982,
his third wife Johanna inherited not only his billions -
he left behind the legend of BMW's recovery.
It alone is supposed to be the source of the family's wealth.
Further inquiry? Unwelcome.
The discretion, the apparent shyness,
yes, that does have something to do with the family's history.
They have not said anything about it,
they have not done anything about it,
they have not admitted anything,
on the contrary:
they become uncomfortable when the subject is raised...
The Quandt family archives remain sealed.
As a result,
only very little information about origins of parts of their fortune
has come to light.
On the matter of its own history,
the origins of its wealth,
its societal significance,
its influence -
that is, the origins of all that it is today -
This family would like to obfuscate it and have everybody forget it.
In short,
the Quandt family made its fortune
on the basis of forced labour -
in connection with the Second World War,
with the German war objectives, etc.
Ok? That is the basis of their fortune.
And this fortune is the basis
of their present economic significance and the societal influence
of their corporations, such as BMW.
And it is, of course, strange,
that the Quandt family won't admit to the facts.
But the Quandt family remains silent, also to us.
Since we began our investigation in 2002,
they have refused all our requests for an interview.
In their written response,
they told us that they did not want to end up in a situation
where they would have to defend themselves,
or even apologise, for being members of the family.
We travel to Bad Homburg.
From here, the Quandts run their enterprises.
It's an attempt to make direct contact.
Turn the camera off!
But even exterior shots are cut off immediately.
Frankfurt a. Main.
The awards ceremony for the Herbert Quandt Media Prize,
a prize established by Johanna Quandt.
Here, too, we look for answers,
but not all members of the media are welcome.
I'm sorry, but this is a private event. Not public.
An invited circle of guests.
Reporter: So, you don't want us to report on this anymore?
(Jorg Appelhans, Quandt Family spokesperson)
Well, I would say that we will end this conversation now.
Reporter: Well, if he wants to put it that way...
Why hasn't the Quandt family managed, today,
like all the others have done,
to admit to the facts?
We cannot change what they did then.
But today one can do things differently.
Thousands of forced labourers toiled for the Quandts during the Second World War.
Herbert and his father, Guenther Quandt, ran the family businesses then.
They profited from the exploitation of people
who were dragged to Germany against their will from all over Europe.
Whether through weapons or U-Boat batteries,
Quandt's factories ensured the combat capabilities of the German war machine.
In the centre of the family empire, the Accumulatoren-Fabrik AG,
or AFA.
Majority shareholder and chief executive:
Guenther Quandt.
Companies such as the German Weapons and Munitions Manufacturing AG,
Pertrix AG, Wintershall, the Mauser Works, and Busch-Jaeger.
After the war, however,
Quandt claimed he knew nothing about the slave labour in his businesses.
But an entrepreneur has to know what is happening in his business!
Nobody can tell me that he just looked at his finished batteries "from time to time,"
but never went to the beginning of the assembly line.
That's simply impossible.
Forced labourers were not the only ones exploited,
as here, in Hannover-Stoecken.
Today, it is a highly-polluted, abandoned industrial lot:
"No trespassing - danger to life and health."
This is all that remains of what was,
beginning in 1943,
a concentration camp.
The camp was part of the AFA Works.
In the attached factory, today a Varta plant,
prisoners were forced to assemble U-Boat batteries.
The factory and the camp were part of an efficient and cheap production unit,
in direct co-operation with the SS.
This concentration camp was supervised by the SS, but it was,
in its equipment, its buildings, its operation, part of AFA.
In a very real sense, it was a company concentration camp,
operating under SS supervision.
Without protective clothing,
the prisoners where exposed to highly toxic substances during battery production.
Many died of lead poisoning.
Those who survived, suffered from the consequences -- for life.
As did Adolf Soerensen.
Now 82, he is returning to the grounds of the camp for the first time.
A member of the Danish resistance, he was deported here.
And when I think about it,
that there were 40 of us, my friends, when we arrived,
and that in the first three months, 6 of us died...
all I can say is, this place, it was hell.
Many died because of lead poisoning, because we worked with it,
and we were all destroyed by it.
The SS told the new prisoners, "In Stoecken, you're dead within six months, at the latest."
Adolf Soerensen survived the slave labour at Quandt's AFA,
and the SS terror.
Yet his suffering in Stoecken accompanies him to this day.
It will never go away.
Whenever I dream, or when I eat, I am here, in the old camp.
This will be with me for as long as I live.
Today, the camp is almost completely overgrown,
and still, the few traces of the past that remain overwhelm him.
I don't understand it.