A German biscuit heiress has sparked outrage by saying the corporate “did nothing wrong” in its use of compelled labour throughout Nazi rule.
Verena Bahlsen, 25, was responding to an earlier controversy when she made the remark about compelled staff.
Bahlsen, which makes Choco Leibniz, employed about 200 compelled labourers between 1943 and 1945 – most of whom have been ladies from Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
Critics have accused Ms Bahlsen of being “oblivious to history”.
The corporate itself has since distanced itself from her feedback.
What did Verena Bahlsen say?
The controversy began final week, when Ms Bahlsen instructed delegates at a advertising and marketing convention: “I’m a capitalist. I own a quarter of Bahlsen, that’s great. I want to buy a sailing yacht and stuff like that.”
Though German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the viewers clapped and laughed alongside along with her, some social media customers accused the heiress of being insensitive to the corporate’s previous exploitation of compelled labourers by making light-hearted remarks about her wealth.
Requested in regards to the criticism in an interview with Bild newspaper, Ms Bahlsen replied: “That was before my time, and we paid the forced labourers exactly as much as German workers and we treated them well.”
She added that the corporate had nothing to really feel responsible about.
These feedback solely deepened the controversy.
What has the response been?
The Nazi Compelled Labour Documentation Centre in Berlin tweeted that there was “a great knowledge gap for family members of the Bahlsen family”.
“The issue of Nazi forced labour is often still a blind spot in the collective memory,” they added.
Man Stern, a 97-year-old scientist whose household have been killed within the Holocaust, additionally criticised Ms Bahlsen – telling reporters that she was speaking about compelled labourers “from the high viewpoint of an heiress”.
The Social Democratic Occasion’s common secretary Lars Klingbeil stated: “Someone who inherits such great wealth, also inherits responsibility and should not be so arrogant.”
And historian and author Felix Bohr argued in Der Spiegel journal that though Ms Bahlsen could not change her firm’s previous, “she must face up to its historical responsibility”.
He additionally criticised her “obliviousness to history”.
However Handelsblatt journalist Christoph Kapalschinski, who initially reported from the advertising and marketing convention, defended Ms Bahlsen and stated her feedback about being a capitalist had been “taken out of context”.
He provides that “anyone who knows Verena Bahlsen” would know that she possible downplayed the therapy of the corporate’s compelled labourers “because she does not know any better – not because she’s a history revisionist”.
In an announcement, Bahlsen stated: “The company is aware of the great suffering and injustice that forced labourers as well as many other people had experienced, and recognises its historical and moral responsibility.”