German billionaire family to donate $11M over Nazi past

A report found that the Reimann family, owners of Krispy Kreme and Dr. Pepper, were avowed Nazis and used forced labor in their factories during World War II. "These crimes are disgusting," a family spokesman said.

One of Germany's richest families has said they will donate $11 million (€9.7 million) to charity after learning the extent of their family's ties to the Nazi regime, according to a report by the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The Reimann family's JAB Holding Company owns a controlling interest in several major brands, including Panera Bread and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, among others.

What the report revealed:

The report focused on Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. and their industrial chemicals company in the city of Ludwigshafen during the Nazi era, and found that:

  • Russian civilians and French prisoners of war were exploited as forced laborers in the family's factories and private villas.
  • The two men were anti-Semites and avowed supporters of Adolf Hitler.
  • Reimann Sr. donated to Hitler's paramilitary SS force as early as 1931.
  • Reimann Jr. once complained in a letter to the Ludwigshafen mayor that the French POWs weren't working hard enough.

Read more: 'Memoryless' pawns: A writer reckons with her Nazi collaborating grandparents

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People and Politics | 01.05.2014

"My Grandfather Was a Nazi"

'They belonged in prison'

Peter Harf, the family's spokesman and a managing partner of JAB Holding Company, confirmed the Bild am Sonntag report.

"Reimann Sr. and Reimann Jr. were guilty. The two businessmen have passed away, but they actually belonged in prison," Harf told Bild.

He added that the family had commissioned its own investigation into its Nazi past three years ago and that he and the family "were speechless" when the preliminary results were recently revealed to them.

"We were ashamed and white as sheets. There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting."

Read more: Auschwitz Museum asks visitors not to balance on train tracks

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust


The Nazi regime opened the first concentration camp in Dauchau, not far from Munich. Just a few weeks after Adolf Hitler came to power it was used by the paramilitary SS "Schutzstaffel" to imprison, torture and kill political opponents to the regime. Dachau also served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi camps that followed.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Wannsee House

The villa on Berlin's Wannsee lake was pivotal in planning the Holocaust. Fifteen members of the Nazi government and the SS Schutzstaffel met here on January 20, 1942 to plan what became known as the "Final Solution," the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory. In 1992, the villa where the Wannsee Conference was held was turned into a memorial and museum.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust


The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower Saxony was initially established as a prisoner of war camp before becoming a concentration camp. Prisoners too sick to work were brought here from other concentration camps, so many also died of disease. One of the 50,000 killed here was Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who gained international fame posthumously after her diary was published.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Buchenwald Memorial

Buchenwald near the Thuringian town of Weimar was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany. From 1937 to April 1945, the National Socialists deported about 270,000 people from all over Europe here and murdered 64,000 of them.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Nazi party rally grounds

Nuremberg hosted the biggest Nazi party propaganda rallies from 1933 until the start of the Second World War. The annual Nazi party congress as well as rallies with as many as 200,000 participants took place on the 11-km² (4.25 square miles) area. Today, the unfinished Congress Hall building serves as a documentation center and a museum.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Memorial to the German Resistance

The Bendlerblock building in Berlin was the headquarters of a military resistance group. On July 20, 1944, a group of Wehrmacht officers around Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg carried out an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler that failed. The leaders of the conspiracy were summarily shot the same night in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, which is today the German Resistance Memorial Center.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Hadamar Euthanasia Center

From 1941 people with physical and mental disabilities were killed at a psychiatric hospital in Hadamar in Hesse. Declared "undesirables" by the Nazis, some 15,000 people were murdered here by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide or by being injected with lethal drug overdoses. Across Germany some 70,000 were killed as part of the Nazi euthanasia program. Today Hadamar is a memorial to those victims.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Holocaust Memorial

Located next to the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was inaugurated sixty years after the end of World War II on May 10, 2005, and opened to the public two days later. Architect Peter Eisenman created a field with 2,711 concrete slabs. An attached underground "Place of Information" holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Memorial to persecuted homosexuals

Not too far from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, another concrete memorial honors the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The four-meter high monument, which has a window showing alternately a film of two men or two women kissing, was inaugurated in Berlin's Tiergarten on May 27, 2008.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Sinti and Roma Memorial

Opposite the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, a park inaugurated in 2012 serves as a memorial to the 500,000 Sinti and Roma people killed by the Nazi regime. Around a memorial pool the poem "Auschwitz" by Roma poet Santino Spinelli is written in English, Germany and Romani: "gaunt face, dead eyes, cold lips, quiet, a broken heart, out of breath, without words, no tears."

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

'Stolpersteine' - stumbling blocks as memorials

In the 1990s, the artist Gunther Demnig began a project to confront Germany's Nazi past. Brass-covered concrete cubes placed in front of the former houses of Nazi victims, provide details about the people and their date of deportation and death, if known. More than 45,000 "Stolpersteine" have been laid in 18 countries in Europe - it's the world's largest decentralized Holocaust memorial.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Brown House in Munich

Right next to the "Führerbau" where Adolf Hitler had his office, was the headquarters of the Nazi Party in Germany, in the "Brown House" in Munich. A white cube now occupies its former location. A new "Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism" opened on April 30, 2015, 70 years after the liberation from the Nazi regime, uncovering further dark chapters of history.

How much did the family know? Reimann Sr. and Reimann Jr., who died in 1954 and 1984, did not talk about their Nazi past, according to Harf. The family believed a 1978 report had revealed all of the company's ties to the Nazis.

The younger generation of the Reimann family, however, began to ask questions after reading old family documents and commissioned a historian at the University of Munich to examine the family's history more thoroughly.

Owners of major brands: The family's JAB Holding Company owns several global brands and major restaurants in the US, including: Calgon, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Panera Bread, Peet's Coffee, Dr. Pepper, Keurig Green Mountain, Caribou Coffee Co., Clearasil and several other companies. The family's wealth is estimated at around €33 billion.

What the family plans to do next: The Reimann family has not yet named which charity it has chosen to receive the donation. The family's spokesman has also said that once the report is complete, the family intends to make it available to the public.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Serving the fatherland

Many German Sinti fought for Germany not only in the First World War but also in the Wehrmacht from 1939 on. In 1941 the German high command ordered all "Gypsies and Gypsy half-breeds" to be dismissed from active military service for "racial-political reasons." Alfons Lampert and his wife Elsa were then deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Measuring and registering race

Eva Justin, a nurse and anthropologist, learned the Romani language to gain the trust of Sinti and Roma. As a specialist in so-called scientific racism, she traveled through Germany to measure people and create a complete registry of "Gypsies" and "Gypsy half-breeds" — the basis for the genocide. She and others researched family ties and and assessed churches' baptismal records.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Locked up and dispossessed

In the 1930s, Sinti and Roma families were in many places forced into camps on the outskirts of town, surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by guards with dogs, like here in Ravensburg in southwestern Germany. They were unable to leave. Their pets were killed. They had to work as slave laborers. Many were forcibly sterilized.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Deportation in broad daylight

In May 1940 Sinti and Roma families were sent through the streets of the town of Asperg in southwestern Germany to the train station and deported directly to Nazi-occupied Poland. "The dispatchment went smoothly," a police report noted. Most of those deported traveled to their deaths in work camps and Jewish ghettos.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

From school to Auschwitz

Karl Kling appears on this class picture from Karlsruhe in the late 1930s. He was collected from school in spring 1943 and sent to the "Gypsy Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he became one of the victims of the genocide. Survivors reported that before being deported they had been marginalized in their schools and sometimes weren't even able to take part in lessons.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Greeted with an evil lie

"I can work," thought nine-year-old Hugo Höllenreiner when he arrived at Auschwitz in a cattle car with his family in 1943. He was greeted by the phrase "Arbeit macht frei" ("work will set you free") above the entrance. It offered hope, Höllenreiner remembered later. He wanted to help his father work: "Then we could be free again." Only one out of every ten people deported to Auschwitz survived.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Brutal experiments by the 'Angel of Death'

Notorious SS doctor Josef Mengele worked at Auschwitz. He and his colleagues tortured countless prisoners. They mutilated children, infected them with diseases and carried out brutal experiments on twins. Mengele sent eyes, organs and entire body parts back to Berlin. In June 1944, he sent the head of a 12-year-old child. He escaped Europe after the war and never faced trial.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Liberation comes too late

When Russia's Red Army arrived at Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, children were among the prisoners. But for the Sinti and Roma, the liberation came too late. On the night of August 2-3, 1944, the officers in charge of Auschwitz ordered those remaining in the "Gypsy Camp" sent to the gas chambers. Two children came crying out of the barracks the next morning and were subsequently murdered.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Racially persecuted

After the concentration camps were liberated, allied and German authorities issued survivors certificates of racial persecution and imprisonment. Later, many people were told they had only been persecuted for criminal reasons, and their requests for compensation were denied. Hildegard Reinhardt (above) lost her three young daughters in Auschwitz.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

Calling for recognition

In the early 1980s, representatives of the Sinti and Roma communities staged a hunger strike at the entrance of the former Dachau concentration camp. They were protesting the criminalization of their minority and calling for the recognition of Nazi persecution. In 1982, then-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt officially recognized the Sinti and Roma as victims of Nazi genocide.

Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma

A memorial in Berlin

In 2012, a memorial for the Sinti and Roma victims of Nazi persecution was erected near the Bundestag in Berlin. The site is a reminder of the fight against discrimination for the world's Sinti and Roma, particularly on International Romani Day. To this day, members of the minority still experience discrimination in Germany and around Europe.

rs/rt (AP, AFP, dpa)

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