Bertelsmann admits Nazi past
Bertelsmann published texts glorifying Nazis
German media giant Bertelsmann has admitted it lied about its Nazi past and that it made big profits during Adolf Hitler's reign in Germany using Jewish slave labour.
A commission set up by the firm found Bertelsmann rode the rise of the Nazi party to restructure itself from a religious and school book publisher to supply millions of anti-Semitic texts.
I would like to express our sincere regret for the inaccuracies the Commission has uncovered in our previous corporate history
"Bertelsmann published a variety of papers and books that clearly had anti-Jewish bias," Independent Historical Commission (IHC) Chairman Saul Friedlaender, an Israeli historian, told a news conference.
The IHC found Bertelsmann had targeted the youth market with its "Exciting Stories" series and the "The Christmas Book of the Hitler Youth" annual which pushed its sales up 20 fold.
The IHC said the company's "legend" that it was a victim of the Nazis was a lie.
The Nazis shut down the company in 1944, but probably because of war shortages rather and not because of subversive texts, it said.
"In 1945, the legend that C. Bertelsmann was closed down because of resistance to the Nazis smoothed the way for the occupation authorities promptly granting the firm a new licence to publish," the report said.
The Commission found that Bertelsmann made "indirect" use of Jewish slave labour in Latvia, and Lithuania but not at its German headquarters.
The then head of the company, Heinrich Mohn, also made donations to the SS, Hitler's special forces and concentration camp guards.
"True, he never joined the Nazi party, but his membership in the SS patrons' group signalled his readiness for a political arrangement," the report said.
The company had close ties to the Nazi regime, particularly the Propaganda Ministry, and printed 19 million books during World War II, making it the largest publisher for the German army.
The company immediately issued a statement apologising for its wartime activities and false corporate history.
"The values of Bertelsmann then are irreconcilable with the company today. The company is now a global player in the media industry," Tim Arnold, the corporate secretary of Bertelsmann told the BBC's Today programme.
Bertelsmann chairman Gunther Thielen said the company accepted the commission's findings.
"I would like to express our sincere regret for the inaccuracies the Commission has uncovered in our previous corporate history of the World War Two era as well as for the wartime activities that have been brought to light," he said in a statement.
Mr Thielen said all the material used for the 800-page report would be made publicly available.
Bertelsmann used its "revised" history when it took over the biggest US book publisher Random house in 1998.
The commission of four historians was set up in the fallout of the takeover after media reports on Bertelsmann's Nazi past.
About 6,000 German companies are contributing to a 5.1bn euro ($5bn) settlement with hundreds of thousands of Nazis slave labourers.
Other companies, such as Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank have also set up commissions into history during the Third Reich. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2308415.stm
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- Bantam Dell Publishing Group
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- Delacorte Press
- The Dial Press
- Crown Publishing Group
- Bell Tower
- Clarkson Potter
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- Harmony Books
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- Three Rivers Press
- Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group
- Broadway Books
- Doubleday Image
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- Nan A. Talese
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- Random House Audio Publishing Group
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- Delacorte Press
- Dell Dragonfly
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- Dell Yearling Books
- Wendy Lamb Books
- Random House Diversified Publishing Group
- RH Value Publishing
- Random House Information Group
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More on Bertelsmann AG
This profile considers the Bertelsmann media group.
Germany probing booksellers for offering 'Mein Kampf' online
LOS ANGELES (JTA) -- Germany is investigating whether the two largest Internet booksellers are illegally shipping Nazi and racis
A spokesman for the German Justice Ministry confirmed this week that the government is looking into a complaint by the L.A.-base
Both books are prohibited in Germany and are not sold by the German affiliate of Amazon.com. However, a German customer can easily circumvent the law by ordering directly from U.S.-based sites and having the books sent to his home address.
Amazon.com followed up its confirmation of orders for Hitler's book and "Protocols" by suggesting additional reading, including "White Power" by George Lincoln Rockwell, the late leader of the American Nazi Party.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, initiated the complaint through letters to German Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin and to the CEOs of Amazon.com and of Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate that owns 50 percent of Barnesandnoble.com.
Bertelsmann recently appointed an international commission to investigate the company's activities during the Nazi era.
The initial reaction of the two online booksellers was to reaffirm their policies of selling any book in print to any customer, the New York Times reported Monday.
However, a news report from Berlin quoted Bertelsmann spokesman Markus Payer as saying his company was taking the matter very seriously.
"There is a conflict between the freedom of expression on the one hand and our duty to protect society from these totalitarian influences," Payer said.
When a merchant ships a product, he is obligated to uphold the laws of the jurisdiction to which it is being sent, Jack Goldsmith of the University of Chicago Law School told the New York Times.
Cooper, however, said booksellers must look beyond whether something is simply legal.
"Just because something is technologically possible, it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do," he said.
"We also have a generational gap here. The online search engines are being developed by Generation X people and even younger ones. I wonder if they pay any attention to their social responsibilities."
The IBM Link to Auschwitz
Report Intro, Conclusion
Bertelsmann just released an 800-page report saying that company patriarch Heinrich Mohn belonged to a circle of supporters who donated money to a group called the "SS Sponsors Circle," which provided financing to Hitler's elite troops. As an October 8 report by The Wall Street Journal noted, Bertelsmann's new history stands in stark contrast to the previous official company record, which had portrayed Mohn as a devout Christian and strong opponent of Hitler.
The current chairman of Bertelsmann, Gunter Thielen, was quoted as saying the company, which is still controlled by the Mohn family, accepted the conclusions of the report. Thielen added, "I would like to express our sincere regret for the inaccuracies . . . in our previous corporate history of the World War II era, as well as for the wartime activities that have been brought to light."
Jewish leaders and others have pressed IBM to discuss its wartime activities, as companies such as Bertelsmann and Ford have done. "IBM must confront this matter honestly if there is to be any closure," said Hoenlein. And scholars have urged the company to open its New York archives to researchers.
"The news that IBM machines were at Auschwitz is just the latest smoking gun," said Robert Urekew, a University of Louisville professor of business ethics who has studied IBM's Hitler-era activities. "For IBM to continue to stonewall and hinder access to its New York archives flies in the face of the focus on accountability in business ethics today. Since the United States was not technically at war with Nazi Germany in 1939, it may have been legal for IBM to do business with the Third Reich and its camps in Poland. But was it moral?"
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