Once the Second World War had started, Nazi Germany found a way to cut the costs in their factories. The regime seized men and women from around occupied Europe, prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates and put them to work in slavery conditions. Knowing what we do about the brutality of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, this is hardly surprising. But some of the international brand names that went along with the forced labor system are surprising indeed.
10. Siemens A.G.
Today, Siemens is Europe’s largest industrial manufacturing company. Headquartered in Berlin and Munich, this German company makes everything from medical equipment to wind turbines. It is a hugely successful international firm with some 372,000 staff around the world. In 2017, its revenue was in excess of $96 billion. But this industrial powerhouse has a grim skeleton in its corporate closet.
Siemens was a favorite of Hitler’s, and he even visited one of its factories in 1933 to a rapturous welcome from its employees. During WWII the company took advantage of the slave labor that the Nazis made available to German industry. It even operated a factory making machine tools in the Auschwitz concentration camp. In total, the firm made use of some 80,000 worker-prisoners. After the war, the company gave almost $175 million to war-victim relief funds.