In the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, West German
industrialists faced a major crisis in their public image. With
mounting revelations about the use of forced and slave labor, the
"Aryanization" of Jewish property, and corporate profiteering under
National Socialism, industrialists emerged from the war with their
national and international reputations in tatters.
In this groundbreaking study, Jonathan Wiesen explores how West
German business leaders remade and marketed their public image
between 1945 and 1955. He challenges assumptions that West
Germans--and industrialists in particular--were silent about the
recent past during the years of denazification and reconstruction.
Drawing on sources that include private correspondence, popular
literature, and a wealth of unpublished materials from corporate
archives, Wiesen reveals how German business leaders attempted to
absolve themselves of responsibility for Nazi crimes while
recasting themselves as socially and culturally engaged public
figures. Through case studies of individual firms such as Siemens
and Krupp, Wiesen depicts corporate publicity as a telling example
of postwar selective memory.
In his introduction and conclusion, Wiesen considers the recent
establishment of a multibillion dollar fund to provide financial
compensation to the victims of industrial exploitation during World
War II. This acknowledgment by German industry of its ongoing
responsibility for its past crimes underscores the contemporary
relevance of Wiesen's study.