Tuesday 21 May 2019

Anger as heiress (25) defends use of forced labour

‘Nothing wrong’: Verena Bahlsen has come under fire for her comments. Photo: AFP/Getty
‘Nothing wrong’: Verena Bahlsen has come under fire for her comments. Photo: AFP/Getty

Joseph Nasr berlin

The heiress of a German biscuits empire has stirred outrage after she appeared to play down the hardship suffered by dozens of people forced to work at the family business under Nazi rule.

Verena Bahlsen, whose father owns the Bahlsen company that makes some of Germany's most famous biscuits, told 'Bild' newspaper the firm, which employed some 200 forced labourers during WWII, "did nothing wrong" then.

Most of the forced labourers at the Hanover-based factory were women, many from Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

"This was before my time and we paid the forced labourers exactly as much as German workers and we treated them well," said the 25-year-old, one of four children of company owner Werner Bahlsen.

German politicians criticised her remarks and some social media users called for a boycott of Bahlsen biscuits.

"If you inherit such a large estate you also inherit responsibility and should not come across as aloof," Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the centre-left Social Democrats, told the paper.

Bahlsen, which also makes the Leibniz butter biscuits brand and has annual sales exceeding €500m, said it was aware of the moral responsibility that comes with being one of dozens of German companies that used forced labour.

"The company is aware of the big suffering and injustice experienced by forced labourers and many more people at the time and recognises its historical and moral responsibility," it said.

Irish Independent

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