Economy

Anger as VW chief executive plays on Nazi slogan at company event

Anger as VW chief executive plays on Nazi slogan at company event

Diess quickly apologized and admitted that it was "definitely an unfortunate choice of words", and his employer has a "special responsibility in connection with the Third Reich", according to the BBC.

Diess had said "EBIT macht frei", in the same vein as the Nazi slogan, "Arbeit macht frei" - or "Work sets you free" in English - while speaking to managers at an company event following Volkswagen's annual earnings conference.

"It was in no way my intention to put this statement in a false context", Diess wrote on LinkedIn on Wednesday. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 to mass-produce a low-cost vehicle, and was originally operated by the German Labour Front, a Nazi organization, according to Britannica.com.

In 1938, Adolf Hitler himself laid the foundation stone for the first Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg in northern Germany, tasked with building an affordable auto for all Germans - which would go on to become the iconic Beetle.

The "Arbeit macht frei" phrase is from the National Socialist regime led by Nazi leader Adolph Hitler and was placed at the entrance of several concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau.

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

Diess apologized, explaining he was trying to make the point that VW's more profitable units had more financial freedom.

Volkswagen's CEO has apologised for the remarks. The CEO's comments were first reported by German news outlets.

Analysts at Bernstein said management change at Volkswagen had become a significant risk following the supervisory board's statement.

"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. In a separate email to Business Insider, Volkswagen called the case "legally and factually flawed, and Volkswagen will contest it vigorously". 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.