Volkswagen chief apologises for use of phrase similar to a Nazi slogan

17 March, 2019, 03:57 | Author: Eric Barnett
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Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess made the comment "ebit macht frei", a play on a Nazi-era slogan during an internal company event.

"EBIT" stands for "earnings before income and taxes", but his choice of words echoed the phrase "arbeit macht frei", which translates to "work will set you free".

No German audience would fail to spot the reference to Auschwitz, where more than a million people were murdered by the Nazis - the overwhelming majority.

The chief executive of Volkswagen has apologized for evoking the infamous slogan that appears at the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp when speaking about the German company's profits at a meeting on Tuesday.

Diess apologized, explaining he was trying to make the point that VW's more profitable units had more financial freedom.


"It was in no way my intention to put my statement in the wrong context - I honestly didn't think it would at the time", he said.

In a separate announcement prior to Mr Diess' remarks, Volkswagen said it would cut 7,000 jobs, as it shifts its focus to electric cars, which require fewer workers to build.

Volkswagen was founded in 1937, as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's vision to enable German families to own their first vehicle. In his post, Diess said that he and the firm's employees "are aware of the special responsibility of Volkswagen in connection with the Third Reich", referring to the period between 1933 and 1945 when Germany was under Hitler's rule.

In 1938, Adolf Hitler himself laid the foundation stone for the first Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg in northern Germany, tasked with building an affordable auto for all Germans - which would go on to become the iconic Beetle. Diess has been CEO of Volkswagen since April previous year.

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