The Quandt Family: Wealth, Responsibility, and Silence in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume 40:2

Shlomo Shafir

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The Quandt Family: Wealth, Responsibility, and Silence Joachim Scholtyseck, Der Aufstieg der Quandts: Eine deutsche Unternehmerdynastie

Joachim Scholtyseck’s detailed and extensive monograph on the Quandt dynasty of German industrialists and entrepreneurs is an important contribution to our understanding of the process of the Nazification of the German economy during the twelve years of the Nazi regime, especially because it deals with a lesser known firm than the famous names of Krupp, Thyssen, and Siemens. The main figure discussed in the book is Günther Quandt, who was born at the end of the nineteenth century in the Province of Brandenburg, Germany, where his forefathers emigrated from the Netherlands and who died at the age of seventy-three while visiting Cairo. Quandt lived through five different periods: the late Wilhelmine Empire, which he honored in his memory; the Weimar Republic which he never liked; the Nazi period to which he quickly adjusted due to its authoritarian character even though he was not convinced by its ideology; and at the end of his life the Federal German Republic. This last phase provided him with the opportunity to restore a part of his family’s business, even as the Communist East German regime confiscated all of the Quandt family’s property there. Quandt’s unlimited ambition to expand his assets was one of the main causes for his becoming an active player during the Nazi era. He began by expanding the profile of his electronic and arms-producing manufacturing divisions in response to Hitler’s preparation for war. Later he took advantage of the ongoing Aryanization of Jewish property in Germany and then in the occupied territories. Finally, Quandt exploited the slave labor of foreign workers, prisoners of war, and concentration camp inmates without concern for their basic needs. To some extent, his heirs have made restitution and expressed regrets.