Werner M. Bahlsen on Nazi past: "Everything has to be on the table"


Triggered by a provocative statement at a marketing conference, corporate hereditary Verena Bahlsen has brought the Nazi past of her ancestors and the company into the headlines.

As SPIEGEL reports in its latest issue, the Bahlsen family from Hanover during the Nazi era was more deeply involved in the Nazi regime than previously known. So were Verena Bahlsen's grandfather and his brothers in the NSDAP and have promoted the SS. (Read the whole story at SPIEGEL + here.)

Now Werner M. Bahlsen, father of Verena Bahlsen, has spoken in the "Bild am Sonntag" (BamS) about the Nazi past of his family and the statements of his daughter. "Verena's statement was a mistake, and she apologized for it – she certainly did not see the full dimension at 26," said Bahlsen, who is the chairman of the board. "I reproach ourselves that we did not have our history reprocessed earlier to take the burden on the next generation at this point."

Verena Bahlsen

Mike Wolff / tagesspiegel / imago images

Verena Bahlsen

At the same time he announced that the family would now deal with the Nazi past. "Everything has to be on the table, nothing should be transfigured, nothing whitewashed," said Bahlsen. For this historian has been hired. The workup could take but.

The company was founded by Hermann Bahlsen (1859-1919). Werner M. Bahlsen is his grandson and son of Werner Bahlsen (1904 – 1985). The latter and his two brothers Klaus (1908-1991) and Hans (1901-1959) sat during the Nazi period on the board of the biscuit manufacturer. In the post-war denazification Hans Bahlsen was classified as a follower, his two brothers were given the status of "relieved".

He did not talk much with his father about the Nazi period, said Werner M. Bahlsen of the "BamS". "And of course we just got his point of view presented." When asked that it was now clear that his father was an NSDAP member and the SS has financially supported, said Bahlsen. "This shakes my picture significantly."

"Whether money arrived at the Bahlsen forced laborers, I do not know"

The Bahlsen company employed forced laborers during the Nazi era. Verena Bahlsen said: "We paid the forced laborers as well as the Germans and treated them well." Complaints by forced laborers have been dismissed in court. "Bahlsen was guilty of nothing."

Meanwhile, Verena Bahlsen has apologized and announced to deal more with the history of their company.

Commenting on the company's legal strategy towards former forced laborers, Werner M. Bahlsen said: "The lawyers have evidently withdrawn from paragraphs, forgetting our moral responsibility, and I was only marginally involved in that matter retrospectively that was a mistake, I should have gotten that into the executive suite. "

Bahlsen pointed out that the company had participated in the compensation fund of the German economy. "I do not know if there was any money from the Bahlsen forced laborers."

At the same time, the businessman reported that he met three former Bahlsen forced laborers in 2000 when they came to Hanover. "I talked to them for a long time, including the injustice that happened to them."

The "BamS" quoted from accounts of a former forced laborer who reported how she and other workers, under the supervision of Werner Bahlsen 1942 from a Kiev bakery factory directly on freight cars loaded and deported to Hanover. Confronted with these accounts, Bahlsen now said, "I'm shocked, I hear that for the first time today, and that's a disaster."


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