Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that you all are enjoying your build up to Christmas. This will be my last blog until January 2020. I have learned that a lot of people don’t read blogs to much during the Christmas season, everyone is just to busy. I encourage you though to go back through my archives, there is some great stuff there!
Moving on, when I thought about this last blog for 2019, I wanted it to show just how the Holocaust impacts us, even today. So, as I was doing my research I came across Emilie Landecker, a woman who has an amazing story and one that impacts us all, even today.
Emilie was born 16 March 1922 in Bavaria, Germany to Alfred and Maria Landecker. Alfred was a Jewish banker and Maria was a Catholic housewife. Maria died in 1928 and Alfred was left with three children to raise, Emilie being the oldest. In 1933 their father had the child baptized as Catholic, fearing the rise of the National Socialist (Nazi).
In 1941 at the age of 19 Emilie began working for the Benckiser company, they were a German company that made industrial cleaning products. Because she was half Jewish, Emilie feared that she would be deported if found out. She worked in the accounts departments of the company as a clerk. Where she met Albert Reimann Jr.
Albert Jr. had heard Adolph Hitler speak in Munich in 1923. His father heard him speak four years later in Mannheim, and joined the Nazi party in 1931. Albert Jr. would join in 1932. The Reimann family were fervent followers of Hitler before they party rose to power.
In 1937 Albert Jr. wrote a letter to Heinrich Himmler, letting him know that their plant was 100% Aryan, “we are a purely Aryan family business that is over 100 years old.” At this time Albert Jr. is 39 years old and a senior executive in the company.
Sometime during this time, the company expands into food production and supply. They greatly benefitted from the rise of the Nazi’s. Even though they never used concentration camp labor, they did use forced labor, there by cutting their cost and making them extremely wealthy. Emilie is by this time working for the company and would have known that they were using forced laborers.
By 1943 the company has 175 people working for it. One-third of the work force is forced labor from France and Eastern Europe. Paul Werneburg, who joined the company in 1910, was the sadistic and brutal foreman who oversaw the forced laborers. He was known to make the female laborers stand outside the barracks, naked for hours and some of them he sexually violated. Many of the forced laborers were kicked and beaten, including the family’s Ukrainian housekeeper.
Nazi Past, Meets Nazi’s in the Future
24 April 1942 saw Emilie’s father, Alfred being deported by the Gestapo. Emilie was at work when the Gestapo come. Her father had been waiting for this to happen, as he had gotten a notice earlier with his deportation date on it. He was allowed to pack one suit and his coat with the yellow Star of David sewn on it. He was not allowed to take any money and/or valuables.
Wisely in 1933, besides having the kids baptized Catholic, Alfred also has the family apartment and property transferred to his children so that they would be able to survive after the war. He had tried to escape with the children however, each exit attempt failed. With only Emilie working, there was not enough money to pay the exorbitant exits fees charged by the Nazi’s.
Alfred died in the Izbica ghetto, two days after his arrest and deportation. It is clear that Emilie would have known of her father’s death and that her siblings would have known as well.
The Reimann family remained ardent followers of the Third Reich, even after the war ended. The use of forced labor had made them extremely wealthy. At some point in her tenure at the Reimann family factory, Emilie fell in love with Albert Jr. They began an affair together and she turned her head to the atrocities committed at the factory against her fellow Jews.
Even in February of 1945, with the Germans losing the war, Albert Jr. thought that there would be a final victory under Hitler. In June of that year, Albert Jr. was arrested by the allied forces for de-Nazification. He somehow managed to convince them that he was not an ardent follower and they change his classification from “active Nazi” to just “follower”.
By 1947 the family is worth over $2.4 million in todays money. Today however, the family is worth over 33 billion Euro. Today Benckiser is JAB Holding Company, one of the largest consumer good conglomerates in the world. They own companies such as: Krispy Kreme Donuts, Peet’s Coffee, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Keurig, Panera Bread and many others.
Now, no one knows exactly how the affair between Emilie and Albert Jr. began. What we do know is that they had three children together, he spent every Sunday and Wednesday with them, as he was married to another woman. Emilie worked for the company until 1965, the same year that Albert Jr. adopted his own children.
The children knew that their parents met at the company and they knew that their maternal grandfather had been killed by the Nazi’s, but when ever they asked their mother about that time period, she always pushed them off, not wanting to talk about the past. The children didn’t know that their father was an ardent follower of Adolph Hitler, nor did they know that the company had used forced labor during the war. None of this came to light until 2012 when the company chairman, Peter Harf, began pressing the family to open the archives up. He then hired a professional historian to sort through it all.
To date the company heirs have donated $11.3 million from their private funds in Alfred Landecker’s memory to those institutions that help former forced laborers and their families.
Today the heirs of the Reimann family company, JAB Holdings, are working hard to reveal their families Nazi past and to rectify the past family wrongs with doing good today. The Nazism past is being erased by the humanitarian future.
We often hear that “those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it”, and as we have seen the past can come back to haunt us, even when it is covered up for decades. It is easier to be honest with those around us, than to hide the parts we don’t want them to see. But it is also never to late to change who we are, to become better than we are and have been. And that is needed in todays world more than ever.
I hope that you have learned how the past can impact the future when we least expect it too. Please share this blog with those around you. I will see you again in the New Year. Until then I wish you all a peaceful and Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.