Volkswagen's CEO, Herbert Diess, apologized at the gate of the Auschwitz camp for using the slogan "Work is free".
Diess said "Ebit macht frei" at the internal Volkswagen event, mentioning the abbreviation for imports that do not incur interest and taxes, while the Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei."
The mistake was in line with the US Securities and Exchange Commission filing suit against Volkswagen against the diesel emissions cheating scandal.
In an article posted on his LinkedIn page, Diess wrote, "In fact, it was a very unfortunate choice of words and I am very sorry for the unintended pain," Diess wrote. "I want to apologize completely completely."
This comment is even more unfortunate considering the history of Volkswagen. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 and mass-produced low-cost vehicles, originally operated by the German Labor Front, the Nazi organization. Volkswagen has been reworked to produce military equipment and vehicles during World War II and is now the world's largest automotive group, including Audi, Bugatti and Porsche.
"Ebit macht frei" was announced by internal executives in relation to operating margins of various company brands, Diess said. Within Volkswagen, "brands with high margins can freely make decisions within the group. My opinion was made in this context."
The CEO said he did not intend to use the expression in a way that could mislead and did not consider possible possibilities.
"Volkswagen has been fully aware of Volkswagen's personal responsibility and the employees' commitment to the Third Reich in the last 30 years."
Volkswagen's strong work council welcomed Diess's "quick explanation and clear apology", adding that memory and accountability are part of the company's DNA.
Since Diess (60 years old) took office as CEO in April, he struggled to put the 3 1/2 year old diesel engine fraud scandal in the past. At the latest twist, the SEC said Thursday it was suing carmakers because it did not disclose to investors that diesel vehicles violated emission standards.
"Investors insisted that the SEC did not know that VW lied to buy consumers' clean diesel cars and lied to government authorities to sell cars that did not comply with US emission standards. did.
VW said the SEC's complaint is "legitimate and factually flawed," the company said. The SEC has accused the company of "trying to extract more information from the company" for more than two years after the agreement with the Justice Department.