December 12, 2019; New York Times
The Reimann family of Germany, which owns or has a controlling interest in Krispy Kreme, Panera Bread, Peet’s Coffee, Pret-A-Manger, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and any number of other well-known brands, has announced they will make a donation of 5 million euros to remaining Holocaust survivors and 5 million more to forced laborers.
The donation is in acknowledgement of the company’s complicity in the Holocaust—it used forced labor and supported the Nazi regime—and is made through their family foundation which has just been renamed after Alfred Landecker, a relative of family members now in the business and a German Jew killed by the Nazis.
Many of the brands owned by the Reimanns are controlled by the JAB Holding Company, which is worth $20 billion.
The New York Times reports, “In July 1937, Albert Reimann Jr. wrote to Heinrich Himmler. ‘We are a purely Aryan family business that is over 100 years old. The owners are unconditional followers of the race theory.’”
In the years leading up to World War II, executives at Benckiser, a predecessor of JAB, supported Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. The company also used forced labor from prisoners of war and others who were taken from their homes in Nazi-occupied territories.
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The Reimanns have been publicly reckoning with that history, and they pledged this spring that a one-time donation of 10 million euros, or about $11.3 million, would go to institutions that help former forced laborers and their families.
The 5 million euros dedicated to victims of forced labor will require finding those who were abused in this way or their family members. Eight hundred and thirty-eight have been located to date.
Reportedly, members of the family were unaware of this element of their history until the company began to expand. And only this year did they begin to share the odd and ugly details of the company’s history, which featured a rich corporate boss who called himself an unconditional devotee of Hitler’s theories yet had children with an employee who was half-Jewish. She was Landecker’s daughter, leaving the later generations as descendants of a Nazi sympathizer and a German Jew the Nazis killed.
For decades, the children knew that their parents had met “at the company.” They knew that their maternal grandfather, Alfred, had been murdered by the Nazis. But until this year, they did not know that their father had been a fervent Nazi.
When the children asked about the family’s Jewish roots, Wolfgang said, Ms. Landecker would speak evasively of growing up in a “Jewish milieu,” and then admonish her children to stop talking about “that old stuff.”
All of this, of course, is reminiscent of the universities that have been struggling to come to terms with repaying their debts to enslaved persons and their descendants in the United States. The history is hard to read, but important—not just for an understanding of this case, but for an understanding of the need for a more dedicated and consistent commitment to reparations for slavery and racial violence in the US.—Ruth McCambridge