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Hugo Boss comes clean on Nazi past

The Local · 21 Sep 2011, 14:30

Published: 21 Sep 2011 14:30 GMT+02:00

The book, called “Hugo Boss, 1924 – 1945”, traces the life and times of Hugo Ferdinand Boss, born in 1885, who founded a clothes factory in Metzingen, Baden-Württemberg in 1924.

During World War II, the firm used 140 forced workers kidnapped by the Gestapo from Poland, as well as 40 French prisoners of war, in its production of Wehrmacht uniforms.

Although this has been known since the de-Nazification court hearing of Hugo Boss himself after the war, the subject has only recently been studied by academics on request of the company.

An initial study written under contract by Hugo Boss by a Münster academic Elisabeth Timm was not published, although she later posted it online, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Wednesday.

Now a book commissioned by the firm from Roman Köster, an economic historian at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, has been published.

He wrote that one of Hugo Boss’ first big contracts Boss snared was for Rudolf Born, and included brown shirts for the then fledging Nazi party.

Uniform supplier

Boss joined the Nazis and promptly received a contract to supply party uniforms. After the war Boss was to say that this was a specific deal into which he entered to save his company.

“That may have been the case, but one may not interpret Hugo F. Boss’ remarks to mean that he was personally far from National Socialism. That was certainly not the case,” wrote Köster in his book.

Both Köster and Boss state that although his work was funded by the company, there was absolutely no editorial influence.

By 1938 the firm was focussed on producing Wehrmacht uniforms. The company profited and grew during the Third Reich, but it did not become one of the industrial giants, nor did it as far as Köster could tell, play any part in designing uniforms. It was a typical mid-sized firm, he concludes.

The firm’s turnover rose until 1942, when Hugo Boss was put into a fixed-price system which gave companies which produced uniforms at the lowest prices, good conditions on the supply of raw materials – and workers.

Hugo Boss used forced labourers, mostly women, and French prisoners of war from April 1940, after several textile firms in the region worked together to take workers from the Polish textile centre of Bielsko – with the help of the Gestapo.

The report says the male forced labourers were kept in a barracks owned by the firm while the women were initially housed with local families while a camp was built for them.

Awful conditions

Several larger Metzinger firms clubbed together to build the camp, which opened in 1943 and where food and hygiene conditions were sometimes awful.

Story continues below…

Hugo Boss tried to at least sometimes improve things for the workers there, with an application in 1944 to house his workers himself, and attempts to improve their food situation. Although the forced labourers lived under unpleasant conditions, in comparison to the situation of other forced labourers, their treatment was relatively better, concluded Köster.

After the war Hugo Boss was tried and found to be ‘tainted’ by his involvement in Nazi structures, and fined 100,000 reichmarks, the second highest fine dealt to anyone in the area of Reutlingen. He later appealed the decision, which was then downgraded to a conviction for being a ‘follower’ of the regime.

Yet Köster concludes that, “It is clear the Hugo F. Boss did not only join the party because it led to contracts for uniform production, but also because he was a follower of National Socialism.”

A statement on the firm’s website said: “Out of respect to everyone involved, the group has published this new study with the aim of adding clarity and objectivity to the discussion. It also wishes to express its profound regret to those who suffered harm or hardship at the factory run by Hugo Ferdinand Boss under National Socialist rule.”

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

15:22 September 21, 2011 by domoresti
'The side with the fanciest uniforms always loses:'

- Murphy's Laws of Combat
16:54 September 21, 2011 by finanzdoktor
Very interesting. As far as I know, there had not been any public cries for the Boss company to come forward with the truth, but they proactively did anyways.
18:22 September 21, 2011 by SebastianWoof
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:17 September 21, 2011 by TurboDirectInjectionDiesel
Having said that, you're spitting in the face of all Polish victims of the war.

And may I remind you that these were the Germans who declared war on Poland, not the other way round. They conducted the blitzkrieg mercilessly burning down villages and cities.

"all good Germans who love(d) their fatherland"

killed the Polish FIRST.

It seems that you're just another ignoramus.

God bless you and your relativism.
19:33 September 21, 2011 by Myles1965
I can't believe anyone really cares about all this anymore. Its been more than 65 years now, most of the perpitraitors and victims are dead, and we have the European Union which is a forum for European nations to work together now. We should just move on, we have more pressing problems these days.
23:34 September 21, 2011 by wxman
To answer your question, this stuff will never go away because it goes to the core of who and what we are as human beings. This was nothing short of a profound event in human history that affected us all. Even though the Reich started the hostilities, bad things were done on all sides. We as human beings will never shake this, nor should we.
09:27 September 22, 2011 by wenddiver
So Hugo decided in 1944, that he wanted to treat his slave labors better. Sweden and Switzerland decided that although they were still neutral they could be more cooperative with the Allies. All the Vichy officials started joining the Free French. Himmler started putting out diplomatic feelers, Army Officers decided it was time to take out Hitler, etc., etc.

I'm sure the Americans, Brits and Canadians landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944, or the B-17s fighting their waydaily into the Reich in broad daylight had nothing to do with all these troubled European conscinces wanting to suddenly come clean and be better human beings.
12:38 September 22, 2011 by melbournite
and did Hugo Boss ever pay compensation to its slave labourer's? Its not too late.. they are a rich company and some of the families must survive today. What about the 100's of other companies who profited from slave labour?
17:49 September 22, 2011 by Whipmanager
Myles1965: People care because while soem people have died, others adn their family members still live on, and can't forget. The serbs and croats and bosnian Muslims have the same problems: How many family members die and how soon can you forget? Each time something arises to add to the death toll, another extension on how long things are remembered with fire in the heart is given.

wxman: Bad things were done on all sides? What bad things did the allies do?

wenddiver: Very well put, thank you!!

Melbournite: (?from Australia?) I agree, anyone coming forward with money to pay off some of the bad feelings and guilt?

And I thought as I read the article yesterday, why are they comnig forward? Maybe has something to do with law suits that are about to be coming forth so they can say they are clean and not hiding anything? Who knows? Or maybe guilt and vanity to come forth and say hey, I resent what my family/company did and I am not like them...
21:14 September 22, 2011 by melbournite
@whipmanager.. from.. drum roll... you guessed it... Melbourne
22:20 September 22, 2011 by Whipmanager
melbournite : I hav ealways dreamed of Australia, and the beautiful ladies there.
20:57 September 23, 2011 by Sam Stewart
It is finally time to let "sleeping dogs lie" Move on from the past and build a future. We have so much more to worry about than clothing companies who used forced labor. Slaves were forced labor in the USA for decades and American Indians were treated like animals with money paid for their scalps.

I just bought a Hugo Boss suit and I LOVE IT!!
21:12 September 23, 2011 by Stephen Goodson
As far as I am aware slave labour was not permitted in the Third Reich. This makes sense, as if you wish to have productive workers, you treat them well. Millions of foreigners from as far afield as the Ukraine volunteered to work in Germany during World War II. Each foreign worker was issued with an Arbeitsbuch and received the same pay, insurance benefits and paid-up vacations as local workers. When factories were bombed foreign workers were often the first to come out and repair buildings. I knew a Polish lady from Lodz (Litzmannstadt), who worked in an aircraft factory in Bavaria. She told me that she had comfortable accommodation, sufficient food, weekends off and was treated with respect. Even concentration camp workers were paid lagergeld.
05:58 September 24, 2011 by TristanSS3
What does Hugo Boss have to be ashamed about? They made beautiful uniforms for their country, uniforms which have never been equalled and never will be, and they did their patriotic duty. End of story; leave them alone.
09:56 September 24, 2011 by Brandoboy
It IS still relevant. The Eastern countries continue to suffer post war poverty and sadness due to the GERMAN condition...a sense of superiority that many here still are very guilty of. It IS disgraceful that the NAZI party still exists today while the suffering continues in Eastern countries. As a foreigner from NZ living in Germany, I have been appaulled by the attitudes of many Germans here. Awareness for the next 100 years please!!! Never forget that over one hundred million lives were lost, generations of suffering continue...shame on you Germany !!
12:54 September 24, 2011 by oftesheimkerl
Oh please, stop it. I grew up in West Germany. I am half Native Hawaiian, half German. I never experienced racism in Germany ever, neither did my Native Hawaiian GI father. It's when I went northward to Sweden that I truly experienced racism. Germans from the western half of Germany are pretty darn open-minded compared to other continental northern Europeans.
18:28 September 27, 2011 by George Palmer
Myles 1965 is showing complete ignorance. If we do not accept and understand the past what hope is there for the future. Grow up or go back to your simple world of soap operas and pathetic reality shows.What a moron you are.....
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