Another German dynasty is facing up to its past support for the Nazi regime.

The Reimann family — whose JAB Holding Co. owns Panera Bread and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts — pledged 10 million euros ($11 million) after discovering the extent of its ancestors’ ties, according to a German newspaper report.

The family used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced labor for their businesses and private villas in the Nazi era, Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday. They also donated to Nazi organizations as early as 1931, and Albert Reimann Jr., the primary source of his descendants’ multibillion-dollar fortune, once complained about the French prisoners’ work rate.

The Reimann family commissioned a historian early this century to probe their ancestry following a 1978 article that mentioned its ties to the Nazis, a spokeswoman for the family said by phone. That report will be completed and made available in 2020. The decision to donate 10 million euros was spontaneous because the family was ashamed, she said, adding a recipient hasn’t been announced.

Some of Germany’s biggest fortunes trace back to the Nazi era. The $36 billion combined wealth of Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt, major shareholders of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, has ties to an industrial empire that built firearms and anti-aircraft missiles for the Third Reich’s war machine. Likewise, Viktoria-Katharina Flick and twin brother Karl-Friedrich Flick are among the world’s youngest billionaires through a fortune that heralds from another Nazi weapons manufacturer.

The Reimann family’s charitable gift represents a fraction of its JAB fortune. Five family members — Wolfgang Reimann, Renate Reimann-Haas, Stefan Reimann-Andersen, Matthias Reimann-Andersen and Andrea Reimann-Ciardelli — are worth at least $10 billion combined, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The Reimann fortune had its beginnings in 1828, when Ludwig Reimann, a chemist, joined Johann Adam Benckiser at the chemical company he founded five years earlier in Pforzheim, Germany. In 1858, Reimann moved the operation to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Reimann Jr. joined the firm in 1923, at the age of 25, helping to run the company alongside his father and uncles.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Reimann Jr. transformed the business, introducing products such as Kukident denture adhesive cream in 1962, and Calgonit dishwasher detergent in 1964. In 1981, he hired Peter Harf, a former management consultant with a doctorate in economics from Cologne University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

JAB has since diversified and spent about $60 billion in the past decade building a coffee and soft drinks empire.


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