The Uncomfortable Legacies of German Automakers

April 21 2022

In today’s Germany, the manufacture of automobiles accounts for a tenth of the GDP, and, moreover, serves as an important symbol of the country’s technical and economic accomplishments. It is also an industry that owes much to the Third Reich. Despite the German “culture of remembrance and contrition,” notes David de Jong, the Nazi founders and early leaders of Porsche, BMW, Volkswagen, and other brands are frequently celebrated by their heirs, and “their names adorn buildings, foundations, and prizes.”

Take the Quandts. Today, two of the family’s heirs have a net worth of roughly $38 billion, control BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce, and have significant holdings in the chemical and technology industries. The family’s patriarchs, Günther Quandt and his son Herbert Quandt, were members of the Nazi party who subjected as many as 57,500 people to forced or slave labor in their factories, producing weapons and batteries for the German war effort.

Günther Quandt acquired companies from Jews who were forced to sell their businesses at below market value and from others who had their property seized after Germany occupied their countries. Herbert Quandt helped with at least two such dubious acquisitions and also oversaw the planning, building, and dismantling of an uncompleted concentration subcamp in Poland.

After the war ended, the Quandts were “denazified” in a flawed legal process in postwar Germany that saw most Nazi perpetrators get away with their crimes. In 1960, five years after inheriting a fortune from his father, Herbert Quandt saved BMW from bankruptcy. . . . Today, two of his children, Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten, are Germany’s wealthiest family, with near-majority control of BMW. The siblings manage their fortunes in a town near Frankfurt from a building named after their grandfather.

The modern-day Quandts can’t claim ignorance of the actions of their father and grandfather. . . . And yet Günther Quandt’s name remains on their headquarters, and Stefan Quandt awards an annual journalism prize named after his father. Stefan Quandt said he believed his father’s “life’s work” justified it.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Germany, Nazi Germany

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship