Volkswagen CEO apologizes for evoking Auschwitz slogan at company meeting

Herbert Diess the chief executive of Volkswagen

The phrase echoes the maxim "Arbeit Macht Frei" - meaning "work sets you free" - which was famously emblazoned in wrought-iron on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

"I didn't intend to banalize the darkest page in history", he said to apologize after making the remarks on Italian radio Wednesday, Il Corriere della Sera reported.

Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by the German government with a mandate to mass-produce affordable vehicles.

Herbert Diess used the line "Ebit macht frei" at a company event on Tuesday.

The inscription appeared at the Dachau concentration camp, set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1933 to use dissidents as slave labour, and later became part of the Nazis' deception for the real use of the concentrations camps.


"Experience at Volkswagen shows that brands with higher margins normally have greater freedom of choice within the Group". Volkswagen is betting its future on electric cars He said his comments were meant to highlight Volkswagen's strong profits, not cause offense.

The Volkswagen factory was also repurposed during the Nazi era to build military vehicles and equipment. 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.

Diess took to social media this week to apologize for the gaffe.

"The investors did not know that VW was lying to consumers to fool them into buying its "clean diesel" cars and lying to government authorities in order to sell cars in the USA that did not comply with US emission standards", the SEC alleged. It accused the SEC of "piling on to try to extract more from the company" more than two years after settlements with the Justice Department.

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