Third Reich to Fortune 500: Five Popular Brands the Nazis Gave Us
Already today you've used at least one product from a company that, at one time, worked for the Nazis. Now, in the name of not getting sued, we'd like to make it clear that we're not accusing any of the below companies of still being in bed with the Third Reich. All of them, to our knowledge, have long disavowed Hitler's regime as being both monstrous and no longer profitable.
01 | Hugo Boss
No yuppie's wardrobe is complete without their standard Hugo Boss suit, Hugo Boss dress shirt, Hugo Boss tie, Hugo Boss sunglasses, Hugo Boss cologne, Hugo Boss man-thong and Hugo Boss socks (to stuff the thong). Even if you're too poor to afford Boss' goods, you can recognize Boss ads from a mile away. They always feature serious-looking men who, despite having enough money for expensive suits, appear to be addicted to heroin. They typically wear tight clothing, and gaze at you wantonly with hollow eyes of infinite, longing that scream, "I'm attractive and I'm really very unhappy about it."Job with Nazis:
Speaking of stern, closeted white men, Hugo Boss manufactured the sleek all-black uniforms for the Schultzstaffel, better known as the SS. While today Boss uses black for slimming effects, in the SS uniforms it was used to command respect and fear in the populace. While their guns and propensity for genocide probably handled all required respect commanding just fine, the black uniforms did soak up sunlight during the summer months, causing the wearer to sweat uncomfortably and stink like a pack of Mongolian shit-camels. Members of the Hitler Youth were also decked out in Boss wear, teaching children an early lesson in looking good whilst beating up minorities.So how evil were they?
Most of the uniforms were made in what can be considered the forerunner to the modern day sweatshop, at times by Prisoners of War. Also, it's impossible to underestimate the importance of those uniforms to the whole Nazi image. To this day, they are essentially synonymous with "evil." The influence of the design has been widespread, especially in film where their influence has been noted in the outfits of the Imperial officers from Star Wars.
But, unlike the products of some other companies on this list, the uniforms weren't directly responsible for killing people. In fact, since they actually made the wearers uncomfortable and smelly for a quarter of the year, relative to the rest of the companies on this list Hugo Boss probably deserves a medal of some sort.
02 | Volkswagon
German automaker Volkswagen came on the scene just before World War II, and was founded by Ferdinand Porsche. He's the granddaddy of those fast and expensive cars that wind up becoming fast and expensive fireballs upon impact with a solid object.Job with Nazis:
Long before the name Porsche became synonymous with expensive toys for rich people, Ferdinand was the lead designer of the most mass-produced car of all time: the Volkswagen Beetle.
What's more surprising, however, is that Porsche's partner in masterminding the Beetle was also the mastermind of World War II: that crazy, affable buffoon Hitler. Hitler specifically wanted a cheap, sturdy vehicle everyone in Germany would be able to drive. Being the opportunistic businessman that he was, Porsche quickly whipped up the Volkswagen Beetle and lobbied heavily for the Fuhrer's approval. Soon, Porsche had his slave labor factories churning them out by the thousands, and eventually, flying out of dealerships.So how evil were they?
If anything, the Beetle is perhaps one of the most misconstrued cars in history. People look at its rounded shape and anthropomorphic face and instantly think of love, peace and smoking massive quantities of pot. But, it was really designed as a tool for everyday life in the always-cheerful Third Reich. Give credit to Porsche for designing a car so impossibly cute that we forget it was built by diseased slaves in some dark, dank factory in Stuttgart, Germany.
03 | IBM
IBM is one of the few IT companies whose history dates back to the 19th century, a time when information technology presumably involved putting a helmet on your carrier pigeon. On the one hand, this means they've been a Fortune 500 company since 1924, giving them a 60-year head start on the likes of Microsoft and Macintosh. On the other hand, over a century of history gives you a lot of opportunities to make some monstrous PR blunders.Job with Nazis:
You're probably thinking, "Wait a minute. IBM was American! The closest America ever got to the Nazis was when Indiana Jones wore that uniform as a disguise in Raiders of the Lost Ark!"So how evil were they?
Actually, prior to the war, American business took what can be generously described as a morally ambivalent stance on the whole Hitler thing. American groups, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institute, directly funded Nazi eugenics projects in the early '30s (where the goal was to find ways to breed a master race). Of course, once the war started, most American businesses cut ties with Hitler. IBM, on the other hand, decided to stick around and see where he was going with this whole final solution thing.
And, this is the point where things take a horrific turn. To get through this, we're going to try to offset the horror with some kittens playing on computers. We'll just look at them while we type.
Back in those days, the only way to keep track of huge databases was with an extremely complicated system involving punch cards, and IBM was the best at constructing and maintaining those databases. IBM's punch card databases could keep track of anything: financial ledgers, medical records, Jews.
OK, give us a moment here ...
According to a book a guy wrote about it, as soon as the Nazis invaded a country, they would overhaul the census system using IBM punch cards. Then they'd track down every Jew, Gypsy and any other non-Aryan until they were all rounded up onto cattle carts. And, next stop wasn't Space Mountain.
The unabashedly anti-corporate documentary The Corporation shows actual footage of IBM punch cards used in prison camps, about two minutes into this video:
That tracked people based on their religion, their location and even how they'd be executed. For instance, Prisoner Code 8 was Jew, Code 11 was Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz; Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was execution by order, and Code 6 was gas chamber. Holy shit, people. Seriously, IBM. What the fuck?
These days, IBM claims they were a victim of circumstance. They had a subsidiary in Germany long before Hitler took over. They say the company just fell under Nazi control, like every other company over there at the time. The records show that's not completely true, though. IBM sent internal memos in their New York offices acknowledging that their machines were making the Nazis more efficient, and they made no efforts to end the relationship with the German branch.
IBM has never made an apology or admitted any need to apologize at all, hoping instead that with time everyone would just forget about it. And, we pretty much have, because, hey, they make such awesome computers!
04 | Bayer
Bayer, the massive pharmaceutical company that's most famous for making Aspirin, also is behind such wonder drugs as Levitra and, at one time in their history, heroin.Job with Nazis:
Yes, we can go on for ages about how wonderful aspirin is to stop heart attacks, or how Levitra can give you wood for weeks, but really, Bayer is most important for given heroin its name. The drug was promoted as having "heroic" properties, which is ironic since it by all accounts turns you into a shivering shell of a man.
Bayer also lent its name to a German soccer team, and to be honest, we're not sure if it's such a good idea to have your team named after a company that sold smack. Just imagine what the mascot would have to look like. We're thinking a Pete Doherty decked out in a blue suit with furry antennae who passes out halfway through the chicken dance.
Then again, it's probably even worse to name your team after the company that made Zyklon B gas, the stuff that killed millions of people in the concentration camps. Yep, Bayer was once part of a large conglomerate, IG Farben, that churned out thousands of killer Zyklon-B gas canisters. The gas was originally invented by Fritz Haber, a man whose life is so incredibly pathetic that you almost forgive him for indirectly causing millions of deaths, while looking as evil as humanly possible.So how evil were they?
After he oversaw the first use of chemicals in warfare, his wife killed herself in their garden with his service revolver in protest. Once Hitler took over, Haber decided to renounce Judaism to fit in, only to be told that he was still Jewish according to the Nazi rule book because his mother was Jewish. He died of a heart attack while fleeing the country he spent his life serving. The chemical he originally invented to kill insects was used to kill a number of his relatives in the Concentration Camps.
You know what? We think we're going to just pack up and sail off to a deserted island somewhere. We'll just walk away from this whole humanity thing. Us and our kittens.
On one hand, the company that actually manufactured the gas was just partially owned by IG Farben, and Bayer was just one part of IG Farben. It's like the way we don't think of General Electric as a military contractor, because they make so many other things.
Bayer, though, has continued some of its old douchebaggery into the modern era. First off, Aspirin was invented by a Jewish man, Arthur Eichengrun, whose name Bayer still refuses to acknowledge. To this day, the "official" history of the company denies Eichengrun's involvement in the invention of aspirin, and states that an Aryan invented the drug, because as we all know, Aryans are better at everything.
One such Bayer-employed Aryan was a nice, thoughtful fellow by the name of Josef Mengele, who Bayer sponsored to seek out medical discoveries in the important field of torturing people to death.
We have some hard questions for Bayer. Actually, just one question, which is, "What the fuck, Bayer? Dude."
04 | Siemens
Siemens AG is the massive global conglomerate that makes everything from circuits to wind turbines to Maglev trains. It has almost half a million employees worldwide and is listed on every stock exchange imaginable. The company had its roots back in the 19th century when famed scientist Werner von Siemens got tired of discovering stuff and decided to make some money instead.Job with Nazis:
Of course, he was dead long before the 1940s, so Mr. Werner von Siemens is guilty of nothing more than not entering the world of porn with that gift of a name. The company he gave that name to may as well have it's corporate headquarters inside a dormant volcano, because it probably couldn't have been more evil if it were trying its hardest.
Siemens was the major player in the Nazification of Germany. The company, run by Werner's son, Carl, and then his grandson, Hermann, struggled in the wake of World War I and the Great Depression and had to earn some dough fast. When Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, it was the signal for the Siemens executives to start building factories, and nowhere was the real estate better than near the homey neighborhoods of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.So how evil were they?
Hundreds of thousands of slave workers were employed to build all sorts of goodies for the German military to use on both the western and the eastern fronts. Though they weren't the only company at the time supplying the German war effort, they were certainly the most prolific. Siemens was in charge of Germany's rail infrastructure, communications, power generation ... the list goes on. If the Reichstag was the brain behind the war, Siemens was definitely the right hand that stroked Hitler to ecstatic glory.
We'll let you be the judge. At the height of the Nazi terror during the 1940s, it was not atypical for a slave worker to build electrical switches for Siemens in the morning and be snuffed out in a Siemens-made gas chamber in the afternoon.
Why else would the Allies destroy four-fifths of the company's factories during the war? Because they were bored? Fuck no. It's because they intended to blitz the marque brand of Nazi Germany back into hell where it belonged.
These days Siemens is being forced to pay due to a series of lawsuits from survivors. So, at least they own up to it, right?
Well, a few years ago, in an act of insensitive fuckery so colossal it could blot out the sun, Siemens tried to trademark the name "Zyklon" with the intent of marketing a series of products under the name. Including gas ovens.
Fuck it. If you need us, we'll be on the island.