Volkswagen's Nazi history.
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by none other than Adolf Hitler. Hitler's dream was that every hard working German Nazi family could have a cheap, reliable car, so they could travel all over the new German Reich and see how their fathers and sons are ridding the future German-Nazi utopia from Jews, Poles, Greeks, Russians and all those other "Untermenschen" (inferior people in German). The Volkswagen company, up until recent times, has actually gone to great lengths in the past to hide its Nazi past. There was a good reason for that.
Hitler inspecting Volkswagen Beetle.
During WW2 the company used slave labor and concentration camp inmates, and tens of thousands of people were forced to work in WV plants, producing cars and engines for the Nazi war machine. The factories also produced military goods including land mines, parts for rockets fired at British cities, hand-held anti-tank weapons and a Jeep-like vehicle known as the Kübelwagen. In fact the company was an integral part of the Nazi war machine, and helped Hitler and Nazi Germany carry out its policies, which included the murder of 14 million innocent people. According to historical records, as early as June 1940 Volkswagen had already begun using forced labor. German historian Ulrich Herbert has documented in his 1997 book "Hitler’s Foreign Workers" that as much as 70 percent of the company’s workforce was forcibly conscripted, primarily from Poland and Eastern Europe. Volkswagen was especially dependent on workers press-ganged from occupied countries or "borrowed" from concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
Forced laborers from Poland and Eastern Europe at a Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg in 1943.
While conditions at the factory were slightly better than in the concentration camps, inmates were overseen by SS guards and were poorly fed and frequently beaten or shot for minor infractions. Children born to forced laborers were taken away and housed in a squalid nursery overseen by an SS doctor, where hundreds of infants died. Volkswagen was responsible for the murder of up to 400 infants, the children of slave laborers forced to work at the firm's factories by letting them die of starvation, or of infections and illnesses which went untreated. At Volkswagen's factories, the foreign workforce was subjected to forced labour was exposed to the cold, incessant beatings, malnutrition and early death. The Volkswagen slaves comprised of Jews who were used as slave laborers while in concentration camps, but also many Poles and as well as Italian, French, Ukrainian and Soviet prisoners of war.
Up until 1998, Volkswagen denied the use of forced labor. Since then the company has opened its archives and acknowledged its Nazi past, but only because it was forced to do so after it faced a series of lawsuits from former Holocaust and Volkswagen slave labor survivors. Volkswagen, to this day, has never officially and publicly apologized for its Nazi crimes and past.