‘It is all correct. (Albert) Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty … they belonged in jail’
Germany’s secretive Reimann family, owners of food firms Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Panera Bread, Pret A Manger and Keurig Green Mountain, has announced a €5 million ($7.3 million CAD) donation to survivors of the Holocaust, after its ties to Hitler and the Nazis were revealed.
The donation will be made to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, known as the Claims Conference, which offers payments, sourced from Germany, to help provide services and care to surviving victims.
In recent times it has emerged that the dynasty worth some €33 billion, which started as an industrial chemicals outfit, made much of its early wealth on the back of slave labour — specifically from Russian and French prisoners of war, and other eastern Europeans, during Nazi rule. Germany’s Bild am Sonntag paper has reported that at one point one-third of the firm’s workforce was being forced to do so.
During the Second World War, forced labour to back the Nazi cause was widespread in Germany. Many German industrial giants benefitted greatly, including Siemens and Volkswagen.
In March Bild, citing a trove of documents, dropped a series of revelations about the Reimann family past. The family was linked to the Nazis long before that point, but Bild went much further. It reported that family leaders Albert Reimann senior (who died in 1954) and junior (who died in 1984) were party members since 1931; that the firm flew swastikas at its factories; and that female slaves from eastern Europe were abused at family workplaces.
Bild added, according to a New York Times translation, that Reimann junior, in 1937, penned a letter to leading Nazi Heinrich Himmler. In it, he said his was a “purely Aryan family business that is over 100 years old,” which firmly backed “race theory.”
Though initially arrested by the Allies after the war ended, the Reimanns held onto their businesses.
Now, after decades in which it says it didn’t discuss the past, the family has entered a new stage of reckoning.
In an interview with Bild in March after the paper released its findings, Peter Harf, managing partner of the Reimann’s investment firm JAB Holding Company, said the family had already commissioned its own research and took no issue with what Bild had reported.
“It is all correct. (Albert) Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty … they belonged in jail,” he said in the interview, a translation shows.
“In the 2000s, the Reimann children started reading and browsing their father’s documents. At the beginning of 2014 we decided: we want to know more. That’s why we signed a contract with economics historian Professor Paul Erker of the University of Munich.”
Harf said that Erker presented a horrifying preliminary report.
“When Professor Erker reported, we were speechless. We were ashamed and white as the wall. There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting,” Harf said. “As soon as the book by Professor Erker is finished, we will publish it. Unadorned. We will not interfere. The whole truth has to be on the table.”
In total, the family has said it will donate €10 million to charities. In an announcement of the €5 million donation made on Thursday, Julius Berman, president of the Claims Conference, said the money will be administered through the Alfred Landecker Foundation, a “humanitarian” arm set up by the family.
“The funds being provided through the Alfred Landecker Foundation will make a significant difference in the lives of so many who deserve so much,” Berman said. “Elderly, poor Holocaust survivors need food, medicine and heat in the winter. These funds will enable thousands of survivors to live in dignity.”
The Claims Conference will take on the administrative costs for distributing the funds, which will be spread out over three years — €2 million in 2020, €2 million in 2021, and €1m in 2022.
“This (donation) marks a significant step for the Alfred Landecker Foundation and our ambition of researching and remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust, as well as providing humanitarian assistance for survivors of the Holocaust and former forced labor in World War II,” David Kamenetzky, chair of the Alfred Landecker Foundation, said in a statement.