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Silence of the Quandts - Redux


moshe_levy

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In the past I have brought up the documentary entitled "Silence Of The Quandts," which caused quite the stir in Germany when it went public. (Available for viewing with English subtitles here on Youtube:

)

 

The documentary details the extent to which the Quandt family (owners of BMW) were involved in the Nazi war machine, and how BMW became unique in that it (unlike many other involved companies) never made amends. The documentary is especially unkind on that last point, though it should be seen rather than summarized by me here.

 

Looks like BMW is finally going public as part of its 100th anniversary celebration.

 

"Gabriele Quandt, grandson of BMW patriarch Guenther Quandt, expressed his responsibility to face the crimes his family had committed in the past after a German historian Joachim Scholtyseck compiled a detailed study enumerating the degree to which the Quandt Family was involved in Nazi transgressions. Scholtyseck concluded that the Quandts were inextricably linked to the crimes of the Nazis, nothing that "the family patriarch was part of the regime," Mail Online reported. The apology took place at BMW's Munich Olympic Hall that attracted more than 2,000 guests."

 

 

See http://www.jpost.com/International/BMW-expresses-profound-regret-for-Nazi-ties-in-public-apology-447229

 

It's a good first step.

 

-MKL

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It only took 70 1/2 years since the end of the war. They're a little late to the party when other transgressors fessed up years ago.

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Dave McReynolds
It only took 70 1/2 years since the end of the war. They're a little late to the party when other transgressors fessed up years ago.

 

Well, the Armenians have been waiting more than 100 years, and are still hoping for some kind of acknowledgement, I guess.

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terryofperry

Acknowledging the history of the Germans and the history of the war I am curious as to what would be a good "second step"?

 

Terry

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These things interest me, largely because I don't think I've come to an understanding of what the right answer is.

 

I only know the broad outlines of the story of BMW and the Quandts with relation to the Third Reich. Were they fully invested in Hitler and the extermination of Jews, or was it something else? An opportunity to make a profit from a war machine? Acquiescence in the face of a dangerous political climate?

 

I'm not an apologist for the Nazis. A dear friend was one of only two members of his family to escape the Holocaust, and in the early 80s we had the opportunity to travel to Germany with him. I don't pretend to have experienced the horror he did, but I think I at least got a glimpse of it through the time we spent together.

 

But, it's now an historic event. I don't think anyone still living in the Quandt family or anyone in control of BMW these days played a role. What is the appropriate response? An obligatory apology? Disgorgement of tainted assets? Reparations?

 

I don't know if it's the right answer, but I think that an acknowledgement by the descendants of the family is probably enough. If it's not, then when do we consign bad things to the history books and decide to move forward?

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I understand your point Mike. If there are any survivors, who would be in their late 80's or early 90's,I would favor reparations to them individually for the pain and suffering the experience must have caused. Maybe when they go they will feel more at peace.

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I don't know if it's the right answer, but I think that an acknowledgement by the descendants of the family is probably enough. If it's not, then when do we consign bad things to the history books and decide to move forward?

 

I have to disagree. The Quandt family fortune probably wouldn't exist today but for the actions of Herbert Quandt during WW II. An apology from someone sitting on billions made on slave labor is a joke, and a bad one at that. As BMW consumers, perhaps we need to consider our role in perpetuating the Quandt fortune.

 

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terryofperry

You are certainly entitled to that opinion Karl and while the atrocities of the time are well documented, to be fair you may need to include many, many others. Audi also used forced slave labor so you will need to go after them as well. There may be a rich American family and/or business with similar history.

 

If you have ridden the "Trail Of Tears" maybe you know that history. If not, you should research Jackson and his take on women, slavery and the Cherokee who by that time had a written language, printed newspapers, had democratically elected officials, etc. The Cherokee peacefully took their case to the Supreme Court and WON, Justice Marshall stating the State of Georgia had no claim to their lands and no jurisdiction. The State of Georgia ignored the ruling with the help of President Jackson. The number of Cherokee deaths alone on the march to Oklahoma exceeded the number of forced slave deaths building AUDI.

 

When it comes to history there is no "fixing" it, no making it "right". Today we can stop those things from happening across the globe.

 

Terry

 

 

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Dave McReynolds
Today we can stop those things from happening across the globe.

 

We can? Tell that to the Syrians, the Nigerians, the Bosnians, the Afgans, and some indigenous tribes in Central America and a few other places.

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terryofperry

We are trying in each of those locations but I guess we could do nothing and in a hundred years get an apology.

 

Terry

 

 

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Dave McReynolds
We are trying in each of those locations but I guess we could do nothing and in a hundred years get an apology.

 

Terry

 

 

There are an unlimited number of people who would like to destroy other groups of people for a variety of reasons we can't even comprehend. We have a limited amount of resources to stop them. How do we deploy those resources in the best way to at least preserve our own values and society?

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These are interesting THEORETICAL arguments, but from context I can see nobody's really watched the documentary. I strongly recommend you do, and then you will have more concrete notions as to what the "right" answers could possibly be, as well as what other companies in similar circumstances did.

 

The documentary goes not only into the Quandt history, but into the history and lineage of the victims who worked on the concentration camp Quandt had built on his battery company property. People who worked with bare lead and battery chemicals with zero protection and died at the rate of 100 per month, documented by Quandt's accountants as "employee turnover." People who, if they survived, gave birth to children with severe birth defects, perpetuating the cycle for generations.

 

The abstract discussions are great - but please, take an hour, and watch the documentary. It caused a splash in Germany, for good reason - and without it, we wouldn't even have this first step of an apology to begin with.

 

Trust me, it will change the course of this discussion completely. Please watch it.

 

-MKL

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These are interesting THEORETICAL arguments, but from context I can see nobody's really watched the documentary. I strongly recommend you do, and then you will have more concrete notions as to what the "right" answers could possibly be, as well as what other companies in similar circumstances did.

 

I watched it . . . and I'm still unclear on what the remedy should be at this point.

 

Let me first say that, while I take the assertions in the documentary at more or less face value, we have to realistically acknowledge that a one-hour documentary cannot come close to exploring the complex reality of a political regime that came to power under strange circumstances, successfully exterminated around six million people, and altered the course of human history . . . all in the span of less than two decades. While the Quandt family apparently was complicit in the Nazis' conduct of war and reaped financial benefits, I'd suggest that there's a possibility that the reality of what they did, their motivations, their fears, and the degree of cooperation in the full range of Nazi activities has to be far more complex than what is presented.

 

It is interesting that Quandt escaped prosecution and seizure of his assets, but I'd also say that I'm not terribly surprised since, as was portrayed in the documentary, his cooperation in the post-war supply of the Allies was important. But, I'd also ask--is there another side to this story? Was it entirely a matter of eager participation, or did threats, coercion, and concern about family play a role?

 

I still come back to the original issue, though. These events occurred 70-80 years ago. Those involved in the wrongdoing are dead. It seems to me that the most important step in this process is to discover the truth, perhaps--though I'm not always optimistic about this--to guide us away from such dangers in the future. Understanding Germany's collective sense of guilt, I still wonder what, beyond perhaps easing some of the remaining survivors' mental torture, an apology by a descendant uninvolved in the crimes accomplishes. Maybe if it accomplishes that, it's enough.

 

Believe me, I'm not an apologist for the Nazis, nor the Quandt family. But I do believe that there is always some period--and I know it's hard to pin down--after which we should acknowledge that the time for anger, punishment, and justice, however defined, has passed and we should consign such horrors to the history books. I don't know what the "next step" would be at this point.

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terryofperry
These are interesting THEORETICAL arguments, but from context I can see nobody's really watched the documentary. I strongly recommend you do, and then you will have more concrete notions as to what the "right" answers could possibly be, as well as what other companies in similar circumstances did.

 

I watched it . . . and I'm still unclear on what the remedy should be at this point.

 

Let me first say that, while I take the assertions in the documentary at more or less face value, we have to realistically acknowledge that a one-hour documentary cannot come close to exploring the complex reality of a political regime that came to power under strange circumstances, successfully exterminated around six million people, and altered the course of human history . . . all in the span of less than two decades. While the Quandt family apparently was complicit in the Nazis' conduct of war and reaped financial benefits, I'd suggest that there's a possibility that the reality of what they did, their motivations, their fears, and the degree of cooperation in the full range of Nazi activities has to be far more complex than what is presented.

 

It is interesting that Quandt escaped prosecution and seizure of his assets, but I'd also say that I'm not terribly surprised since, as was portrayed in the documentary, his cooperation in the post-war supply of the Allies was important. But, I'd also ask--is there another side to this story? Was it entirely a matter of eager participation, or did threats, coercion, and concern about family play a role?

 

I still come back to the original issue, though. These events occurred 70-80 years ago. Those involved in the wrongdoing are dead. It seems to me that the most important step in this process is to discover the truth, perhaps--though I'm not always optimistic about this--to guide us away from such dangers in the future. Understanding Germany's collective sense of guilt, I still wonder what, beyond perhaps easing some of the remaining survivors' mental torture, an apology by a descendant uninvolved in the crimes accomplishes. Maybe if it accomplishes that, it's enough.

 

Believe me, I'm not an apologist for the Nazis, nor the Quandt family. But I do believe that there is always some period--and I know it's hard to pin down--after which we should acknowledge that the time for anger, punishment, and justice, however defined, has passed and we should consign such horrors to the history books. I don't know what the "next step" would be at this point.

 

Well stated Mike.

 

Terry

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At the very least, the conceited arrogance of the Quandt heirs seems to have given way to a more realistic PR strategy, in the way of this new apology.

 

That's a good first step.

 

What's a good "next step?" We're not reinventing the wheel here. Why not just look at what "next steps" VW, Mercedes, Bayer, et. al. took? Setting up funds to compensate living victims and their descendants with the avalanche of health care costs they deal with thanks to poison exposure at the Quandt plants? Educational programs to deal with the subject of the war, and how to prevent it in future generations. Special cooperation with the governments of the countries affected, namely Israel.

 

All of this and much, much more was done by the other aforementioned companies who came clean about the past and took concrete action to at least try to remedy for the sins of that war. Why should BMW be any different?

 

-MKL

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terryofperry

Moshe, crimes against humanity were committed, we understand this. I hesitated to post to this because these things go the same way...always. First we want acknowledgement, when we get that we want an apology, when we get that we want reparations, when we get that we want punishment, and when we get that we say nothing can bring them back, make it whole, or make it right. It cannot be made right.

 

That is why I asked what a good second step would be without commenting further. Here is a tidbit.

 

"During World War II, BMW's fortunes boomed largely on the back of forced labor; prisoners were often made to work in miserable conditions. Today, Quandt foundations give money to charities for former forced laborers and their families."

 

After the documentary the Quandt foundation funded the research project which acknowledged the Quandt involvement with the NAZI movement. That independent research also cleared BMW of any wrong doing.

 

When the war ended the BMW Munich plant was rubble, the Soviets confiscated the other plants and the allies forbid BMW from building new vehicles. In 1959 BMW was nearly bankrupt, heavily in debt and losing money at a very fast pace. It is not accurate to say that BMW walked away with billions of dollars after the war.

 

BMW is a non-entity, it exists only on paper. The same as Yamaha. Japan was not all that great to us at Pearl Harbor and the Pacific rim. The same as Moto Guzzi. Mussolini was backing Germany.

 

Again, America is not without its skeletons regarding safety during the Industrial Revolution either as well as the building of railroad tracks.

 

I understand and commend your passion regarding this, I really do. I just cannot see what going after BMW will accomplish when there are so many other issues needing our attention. The educational aspect you mention is freely available. I do not know what "special cooperation" BMW could or should give to Israel. Maybe the same as VW, Mercedes, and Bayer, I do not know what that is.

 

Maybe the Quandts should have been charged and tried while they were alive I cannot say. But if we are to punish the sons and daughters for the sins of the father that list will be very long.

 

It has been a good discussion, I have learned from it but we have acknowledgement, we have an apology, we have a fund however inadequate it may be as it will never be enough and my view is the sins of the father can only be paid by the father.

 

Again, I commend your passion, it is admirable and very much appreciated.

 

Be well.

 

Terry

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Dave McReynolds

I just finished watching the documentary.

 

It is clear that horrible atrocities were committed by the Nazis in WWII, and we, as victors, had the power to punish at least some of the perpetrators, and we did. I agree that there should be limits to allowable conduct, even in a war where millions of people are being slaughtered with impunity, and I agree with efforts to prosecute those who stepped beyond the limits of civilized behavior. I agree with continuing efforts to pursue those who escaped the original tribunal at Nuremburg. I'm not sure I agree with trial by innuendo of those who were never charged with anything, but I can also understand that the legal system occasionally may fail, and people have a right to continue to search for the truth, subject to libel laws, of course.

 

One obvious conclusion is that the Quandt family, left to its own devices, would prefer to continue to be reclusive. It seems that the family is feeling some pressure, and because of that pressure, after possibly consulting with legal and public relations counsel, might conclude that making a public statement and possibly some reparations would enable them to return to their seclusion and end the probing of their past. My own feeling is that any apology issued under those circumstances would be shallow in the extreme, and certainly would be no comfort to me if I were a victim. I'm sure that they would not offer any compensation of a magnitude that would significantly effect their wealth, although it might be of some benefit to victims or their families. They clearly feel no guilt, and I can't imagine that any of these revelations, which were undoubtedly known to them already, would change that.

 

Before we begin to feel too self-righteous about things, I think we should look at our own history. I doubt that many of the European perpetrators of the genocide of the native Americans on this continent felt any guilt at the time, and certainly few of their descendants feel any today. Should we? Or is it just part of the human condition that some will conquer and some will be conquered?

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>>>One obvious conclusion is that the Quandt family, left to its own devices, would prefer to continue to be reclusive. It seems that the family is feeling some pressure, and because of that pressure, after possibly consulting with legal and public relations counsel, might conclude that making a public statement and possibly some reparations would enable them to return to their seclusion and end the probing of their past. My own feeling is that any apology issued under those circumstances would be shallow in the extreme, and certainly would be no comfort to me if I were a victim. I'm sure that they would not offer any compensation of a magnitude that would significantly effect their wealth, although it might be of some benefit to victims or their families. They clearly feel no guilt, and I can't imagine that any of these revelations, which were undoubtedly known to them already, would change that.<<<

 

Well said. The "heat" on the Quandts exists precisely because they are reclusive and evasive, and obviously some of the descendants are quite arrogant about their position and how they got where they got, which only makes it worse and turns up the heat further. The "heat" on them is higher than on other companies because other companies - who committed FAR worse atrocities (Mercedes and VW come to mind) - made amends. Made amends enough, at least, to "make the problem go away." To them, it is a PR issue first and foremost, regardless of any crocodile tears shed by them.

 

Of course the victims can never be brought back. Of course there will never be real justice. None of that means "let's not do anything because that was 70 years ago," though. If you watch the doc, you see that the families of the victims just wanted a small memorial placed on the grounds to honor their forefathers who perished, and even that was denied.... Small gestures can make big problems go away, as the Quandts are now learning. This has been snowballing for years, like any infected wound which could have been cured with a simple shot long ago, but now requires amputation in the minds of some.

 

>>>>Before we begin to feel too self-righteous about things, I think we should look at our own history. I doubt that many of the European perpetrators of the genocide of the native Americans on this continent felt any guilt at the time, and certainly few of their descendants feel any today. Should we? Or is it just part of the human condition that some will conquer and some will be conquered?<<<<<

 

I have studied that issue in depth. It's horrifying. I dare say that what happened to the Native Americans here in the USA was (and is) a holocaust in its own right. On smaller scales, the Armenians, also. And the Rwandans. And...... It goes on and on, sadly.

 

But, of course, it is true that some will conquer and some will be conquered.

 

For my people, a phrase was born of our 20th century experience, namely "Never Again." In the grand context of the world learning the meaning of this, obviously, not much came of it. (Genocide is ongoing right now, as we all know.) But on a smaller scale, person to person, it does mean something. Whether that's education to try to prevent another such period from occurring on the "soft side," or building up defenses so that people know not to mess with you on the "hard side," it does mean something.

 

And for those of us to whom it does mean something, time is irrelevant. 95 year old great grandfathers are still hunted down and hauled before the courts once their old identities are found out. If they're found guilty, they rot in jail until they die. As it should be, if the aforementioned phrase is to mean anything at all. Which bring us back full circle to what, exactly, the Quandt family is responsible for now, at this stage, all these years later. It's not an easy question - but we wouldn't be having a public discussion about it if they did the right thing from square one, like other companies did.

 

-MKL

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