The heiress of a German biscuit firm has apologised for saying the agency “did nothing incorrect” in its use of compelled labour throughout Nazi rule.
Verena Bahlsen, 25, had been accused of being “oblivious to historical past” and the corporate had distanced itself from her feedback.
However after the backlash she admitted her remarks had been inappropriate.
“It was a mistake to amplify this debate with inconsiderate responses,” Ms Bahlsen mentioned in an announcement
Bahlsen, which makes Choco Leibniz biscuits, employed about 200 compelled labourers between 1943 and 1945 – most of whom had been girls from Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
What did Verena Bahlsen say?
The controversy began final week, when Ms Bahlsen advised delegates at a advertising convention: “I am a capitalist. I personal 1 / 4 of Bahlsen, that is nice. I wish to purchase a crusing yacht and stuff like that.”
Though German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the viewers clapped and laughed alongside together with her, some social media customers accused the heiress of being insensitive to the corporate’s previous exploitation of compelled labourers by making light-hearted remarks about her wealth.
Requested concerning the criticism in an interview with Bild newspaper, Ms Bahlsen replied: “That was earlier than my time, and we paid the compelled labourers precisely as a lot as German staff and we handled them effectively.”
She added that the corporate had nothing to really feel responsible about.
These feedback solely deepened the controversy.
What has the response been?
The Nazi Pressured Labour Documentation Centre in Berlin tweeted that there was “an incredible information hole for relations of the Bahlsen household”.
“The difficulty of Nazi compelled labour is commonly nonetheless a blind spot within the collective reminiscence,” they added.
Man Stern, a 97-year-old scientist whose household had been killed within the Holocaust, additionally criticised Ms Bahlsen – telling reporters that she was speaking about compelled labourers “from the excessive viewpoint of an heiress”.
The Social Democratic Celebration’s normal secretary Lars Klingbeil mentioned: “Somebody who inherits such nice wealth, additionally inherits accountability and shouldn’t be so conceited.”
And historian and author Felix Bohr argued in Der Spiegel journal that though Ms Bahlsen could not change her firm’s previous, “she should resist its historic accountability”.
He additionally criticised her “obliviousness to historical past”.
Ms Bahlsen has now apologised, admitting her feedback had been inconsiderate.
“Nothing may very well be farther from my thoughts than to downplay nationwide socialism or its penalties,” she mentioned in an announcement on Wednesday.
She added that she recognised the necessity to be taught extra concerning the firm’s historical past.
“As the subsequent technology, we now have accountability for our historical past. I expressly apologise to all whose emotions I’ve harm,” she mentioned.