Vokswagen is having a bad year. First, they attempted to cover up evidence that its vehicles were not up to spec in terms of diesel emissions. And now they’re facing allegations that the company had deep ties with the Nazis.
The company has previously been fairly transparent about its specious political origins, even engaging in public soul-searching and admitting that they employed thousands of forced laborers during the WWII. But when a company historian named Manfred Grieger published a highly critical research paper about the wartime labor policies of Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, it was apparently too incriminating a blow for his employers.
Volkswagen recently terminated Grieger’s contract. Grieger is silent on why, and Volkswagen insists that it was not a punitive measure. But many people speculate, quite angrily, that VW wanted to drop the hot potato.
Grieger published a book in 1996 titled Das Volkswagenwerk und seine Arbeiter im Dritten Reich (The Volkswagen Works and Its Workers During the Third Reich), which detailed the extremely disturbing history of the Wolfsburg factory, still VW’s primary manufacturing facility. Wolfsburg was essentially a concentration camp, in which laborers, many of them transfers from literal concentration camps, were underfed, abused and overseen by SS officers.
In Grieger’s new research paper, he accused Audi of downplaying their collusion with the Nazis, and their similar use of forced labor.
Grieger’s firing has elicited outrage from his academic supporters. Hartmut Berghoff, a Georg-August University professor, authored an open letter to Volkswagen protesting their decision. The letter has been signed by seventy-five German academics who feel that the move was an unjust face-saving measure. “Transparency in reacting to the public is not really the strength of VW,” says Berghoff.