Continental Was Important Part of Nazi War Machine, Study Finds

Continental AG used forced laborers during the Nazi era and was deeply involved in supplying the German regime’s military during World War II, a study found.

About 10,000 forced laborers, including concentration camp inmates, worked in the car-parts maker’s factories during the war, according to the research. Continental commissioned the study to get a clearer picture about the darkest chapter of its history, Chief Executive Officer Elmar Degenhart said Thursday.

“Continental was an important part of Hitler’s war machinery,” Degenhart said in a statement. The report also investigated the role of several businesses that Continental didn’t own at the time but acquired later, including the VDO car supplier previously owned by Siemens AG.

The report follows similar efforts from companies including Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG, which have already reviewed their role under the Nazi regime. Questions regarding the involvement of firms and entrepreneurs have come into greater focus in the wake of the recent anti-racism protests, which have also addressed wrongdoing committed by the U.S., the U.K. and Germany during their colonial past.

Under the Nazis, Continental’s product portfolio shifted from a consumer focus to mostly military equipment, the study found. During the later stages of the war, the company forced concentration camp prisoners to manufacture gas masks under inhumane conditions.

Continental, based in Hanover, has started a program to foster awareness of the company’s history in response to the study. A thorough knowledge of Continental’s past is key to its future, Degenhart said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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