One of Germany's wealthiest families, whose company holds a controlling interest in Krispy Kreme Donuts, Panera Bread, Pret a Manger and other well-known companies, plans to donate millions to charity after learning of the enthusiastic support of their ancestors to Adolf Hitler and the use of forced labor under the Nazis, according to a report on Sunday.
In a four-page report, the Bild newspaper reported that documents discovered in Germany, France and the United States reveal that Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced laborers.
Family spokesman Peter Harf, who is one of the two founding partners of Reimann's Jab Holding Company, said that recent internal research has confirmed Bild's results.
"It's all right," he told the newspaper. "Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty … they were in prison."
The father and son, who died in 1954 and 1984, did not speak of the Nazi era and the family had thought that the whole relationship of the company with the Nazis had been revealed in a 1978 report, he said Harf.
But after reading the documents kept by the family, the younger generation began to ask questions and commissioned a historian from the University of Munich in 2014 to examine Reimann's story more thoroughly, Harf said.
The expert presented his preliminary findings to Reimann's children and grandchildren, as well as to Hanf, a few weeks ago, he said.
"We were all ashamed and we were as white as the wall," he said. "There is nothing to gloss over, these crimes are disgusting."
In addition to Krispy Kreme Donuts and Pret a Manger, the Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Co. has controlling interests in Keurig Green Mountain, Peet's Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Co., Panera Bread and other companies.
Many German companies recognized the use of slave laborers during the Nazi era and conducted their own independent investigations.
In 2000, the German government approved a 10 billion fund (about 5.1 billion euros) to provide compensation, with half the money coming from companies like Bayer, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen and AEG .
Bild reported that even before the Nazis came to power, the Reimann made donations to the paramilitaries SS.
During World War II, the company used forced labor in its industrial chemical company. It was not clear how many were used in the complex, but Bild said that in 1943 175 forced laborers were employed, about 30% of his workforce.
In addition to the civilians of Russia and other Eastern European countries, the company used French prisoners of war – of which Reimann Jr. complained in a letter to the mayor of Ludwigshafen in 1940 that they were not working enough hard.
After the war, the two were investigated by the allied occupying powers and initially banned by the French from continuing their commercial activities, but then the judgment was overturned by the Americans, according to Bild.
Harf said the family will donate 10 million euros (11.3 million dollars) to a charity not yet determined as a gesture, and once the historian's report is complete, it will be released to the public.
"The whole truth must be put on the table," he said.