Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess sorry for Nazi pun

Kenny Grant
March 17, 2019

During a recent company event, Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess used a phrase similar to a slogan used by the Nazis in extermination camps, a report from the BBC says. "I would like to apologize unreservedly".

Speaking to the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche, the Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess apologised for uttering at a management meeting the phrase "EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) macht frei", which echoes the "arbeit macht frei" slogan that was displayed above the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Diess said "Ebit macht frei" during an internal Volkswagen event, evoking memories of "Arbeit macht frei", the words that appeared prominently at the entrance of Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz.

"It was in no way my intention to put this statement in a false context", he said. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 to mass-produce a low-cost vehicle, and was originally operated by the German Labour Front, a Nazi organization, according to Britannica.com.

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Diess apologized, explaining he was trying to make the point that VW's more profitable units had more financial freedom.

The Volkswagen factory was also repurposed during the Nazi era to build military vehicles and equipment. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment.

Asked whether Bernstein analyst Max Warburton was right to suggest that Diess had lost support internally as a result of the remarks, Volkswagen's supervisory board said such an inference was inappropriate.

"The history of the Volkswagen group and the resulting responsibility is an important part of its corporate identity", the supervisory board said in the statement.

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