What’s going down with Herbert Diess the head of Volkswagen (VW)? On March 13 he offered a clarification regarding a remark he’d made earlier that week which created a storm across German public opinion. Due to its troubling similarity with the Nazi slogan ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work makes you free) which adorned the entrance to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
It seems Diess used the phrase “Ebit macht frei” during a presentation to an audience of VW managers.’Ebit’ is reported to be an accounting acronym which refers to earnings before interest and taxes, a phrase linked to an accountancy examination of a company’s quarterly financial report.
“At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context,” Diess stated on his LinkedIn page March 13. “At the time I simply did not think of this possibility.”.
Well these things happen right? A misunderstanding, but let’s jump to the present and Herr Deiss looks to have attracted understandable concern and controversy. From what we read he appears to have asserted during an interview with the BBC on April 16 that he was unaware of China’s treatment of Uyghurs or the use of ‘re-education’ camps in occupied East Turkistan.
Image: cctv/amended @tibettruth
A region where Volkswagen operates a large manufacturing plant. Given the years of reportage on China’s brutal oppression of Uyghur culture and international concern regarding the forced indoctrination of Uyghurs at these camps it’s difficult to understand how the head of VW would be so ignorant.
Or are we witnessing a selective denial at work here? Would it be too cynical to wonder if a corporation chose to collaborate with a tyranny, actively overlook any odious realities in the pursuit of profit?
Perhaps Herr Diess should contemplate upon his country’s dark history, the denials and refusal to accept responsibility for the existence of concentration camps, often located nearby German villages and towns. As Captain Sol Nichtern, an American soldier who took part in the liberation of those held at Dachau noted: “The concentration Camp at Dachau is built right up against the side of the village; the houses go right up to the outer wall…And the German people who lived on the other side of the street claim that they didn’t know what was going on in the [very] next street”. Source: testimony of Sol Nichtern, 44, Ast Project, (Physician with Medical Corps, 517th Special Clearing Company).
The stench from such places was nauseatingly intense, no doubt reaching unbearable levels when the crematoriums were burning masses of bodies.Yet local citizens insisted they knew nothing, and were struck by temporary blindness during the regular occasions when slave-labor units were marched in and out of such camps.
That the Chinese regime has waged a cultural genocide against the Tibetan and Uyghur people is well known and documented. As is China’s grisly record concerning human rights violations, forced-labor camps, censorship and a program of forced sterilizations. Now if we allow that Herbert Diess is being truthful when insisting he is unaware of such oppression or the existence of camps which brutalizes and indoctrinates Uyghurs, a major question remains.
Having been informed of, and able to assess the wealth-of detailed reports, eyewitness testimony and media accounts that document China’s totalitarian excesses against Tibet and East Turkistan, what action will the head of Volkswagen be taking?
Will he choose to maintain ignorance and on that basis seek to justify his company’s lucrative collaboration with China’s regime? If so, as looks likely, he will be guilty within the court of world opinion, not simply of ignorance, but complicity!