Is it morally acceptable to buy cars from Volkwagen
The title seems silly I know, but It’s a serious point, is it morally acceptable to buy goods from companies that used slave labour and that were closely associated with the Nazi regime. How long ago does a company’s crimes have to be before they can be forgiven.
Volkswagen was created by the German Labour Front (The DAF) in 1936, the DAF was the Nazi trade union, created to replace the other trade unions banned by the Nazi regime. Being founded by the Nazis is not an ideal start to any company’s history. The task Volkswagen had was to create a ‘peoples’ car’ (which is what Volkswagen literally means in English, however since the Nazis used the word Volk so much it has since fallen out of fashion but Menschwagen does not quite have the same ring to it). The factory was built in 1938 but by the time the war broke out very few cars had actually been built and none had been delivered. During the war Volkswagen switched production to military goods. During the war Volkswagen extensively used slave labour, with it being estimated that at one point 80% of Volkswagens labour force were slave labourers.
The Volkswagen that emerged from the war is very different to the wartime Volkswagen, with it relying extensively on the support of the allied occupying powers, but the name still has the legacy of being created by the Nazis and using slave labourers, something that should kill off any brand today.
Of course Volkswagen was not the only company associated with the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, Siemens also used slave labour and supplied the Nazi concentration camps and death camps with electrical equipment, the infamous IG Farben was liquidated after the war, although the liquidation was only completed in 2012 and various branches of the company still live on, even IBM is linked to the Holocaust (Black, 2001).
Perhaps it was necessary to overlook the actions of certain companies in order to rehabilitate Germany, perhaps it is unfair to punish companies for the actions of 80 years ago but it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.