Billionaire German family to donate $16m over Nazi past

One of Germany's richest families has admitted to its dark links with Adolf Hitler's regime. Source: AAP

One of Germany's wealthiest families plans to donate 10 million euros ($A16 million) after confirming their ancestors backed the Nazis and used forced labour.

One of Germany's richest families says it plans to give millions of euros to charity after learning about ancestors who enthusiastically supported the Nazis and used forced labour.

Bild newspaper reported that documents revealed Albert Reimann Sr and Albert Reimann Jr used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced labourers.

Family spokesman Peter Harf, who heads the Reimann's JAB Holding Company, said recent internal research confirmed Bild's findings.

He said the family never spoke of the Nazi era but the evidence shows the father and son, who died in 1954 and 1984, belonged in jail.

"Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty. The two entrepreneurs have both passed away, they belonged actually in prison," said Harf.

Harf said the heirs plan to publish the research and donate 10 million euros ($AU16 million) to charity.

Krispy Kreme
One of the family's business is in the Krispy Kreme empire.

JAB has controlling stakes in restaurant chain Pret a Manger, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Peet's Coffee and other businesses.

With wealth estimated at 33 billion euros, the Reimann family is believed to be Germany's second richest. 

Family ties to be made public

Harf said the family began digging into their dark past in the 2000s, and in 2014 decided to commission a historian to produce a thorough study into their ancestors' ties to Nazism.

The family plans to make public a full account when the book by the historian, Paul Erker of Munich University, is finished, said Harf.

Quoting letters and archival documents, Bild am Sonntag said Reimann senior was a willing donor to Hitler's SS as early as 1931.

His company was in 1941 deemed a "crucial" firm in the war, as it produced items for the Wehrmacht and the armaments industry.

In 1943, the company was using as many as 175 forced labourers, and employed a foreman who was known for his cruel treatment of the workers.

Harf, who confirmed the conclusions drawn by the Bild report, said there had been no known efforts to provide any compensation to the forced labourers.

"But we have since talked about what we can do now," he said.

"We want to do more and donate 10 million euros to a suitable organisation."

Many of Germany's biggest companies have over the decades confronted their Third Reich history.

Among them is Volkswagen, which used concentration camp internees and prisoners of war as slave labour in its factories during the war.

In 1938, Hitler himself laid the foundation stone for the first Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg in northern Germany, tasked with building an affordable car for all Germans - which would go on to become the iconic Beetle.

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