The Reimann family, one of the richest families in Germany and controlling owner of brands like Krispy Kreme, Panera Bread, Pret A Manger, and Peet’s Coffee, among others, has admitted its past ties to the Nazi Party and its use of slave labor in its businesses during World War II. The family has pledged to donate €10 million ($11 million) to charity to try to atone for the past actions of their ancestors, per CNN Business.
The actions were discovered thanks to a three-year investigation commissioned by the family to investigate the existence and the extent of their ancestors’ behavior.
A spokesperson for the family stated that Albert Reimann Sr., who died in 1954, and his son Albert Reimann Jr., who died in 1984, used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as slave labor in company factories during World War II, and that they were strong supporters of Adolf Hitler. The investigation also uncovered donations from Reimann Sr. to Hitler’s SS organization as early as 1931.
Peter Haft, the chairman and one of the managing partners of JAB Holdings (the Reimann family’s company), unequivocally condemned the actions of Reimann Sr. and Reimann Jr.
“Reimann Senior and Reimann Junior were guilty. The two businessmen have passed away, but they actually belonged in prison. We were ashamed and white as sheets. There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting.”
Per the Financial Times, the Reimann family erected Nazi swastika flags at their factory gates in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. In a 1937 letter to Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s top lieutenants, the younger Reimann described the company as “a purely Aryan family business” and his family as “unconditional supporters of race theory.” In another letter to a local mayor, Reimann Jr. also complained that the French POWs the company was using as slave labor weren’t working hard enough and should be imprisoned. Female Eastern European slave laborers from at the company’s factory were often beaten and sexually abused.
The Reimann family has been wildly successful in their history. Through JAB Holdings, they control or have major stakes in Krispy Kreme, Panera Bread Dr. Pepper, Pret A Manger, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and other popular consumer brands. They control a fortune of over €18 billion according to Forbes.
The Reimanns have not yet disclosed the charity that will receive the $11 million but specified it will go to an organization dedicated to helping former slave laborers. In addition to the donation, the family will publish a book on their ancestors’ crimes.