What if: you could have unlimited donuts and soup & salad combos but your family’s name was smeared by the legacy of Naziism?
Such is the situation of the Reimanns, one of Germany’s wealthiest families, who are the majority owners of major international eateries Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Panera Bread and Pret A Manger. After an investigation spurred by the Reimanns themselves revealed Nazi ties and war crimes, the family, who also own majority shares in Keurig Green Mountain, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Co., will give $11 million to a charity.
The AP reported on Sunday that Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. had a longtime connection to the Nazis, including donating to the SS and using prisoners of war as slaves in the company’s chemical factory. In 2000, German companies including Deutsche Bank, Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen, and AEG, paid reparations to surviving prisoners of war whom they had enslaved.
The Reimann family had been aware of a family connection to Naziism, but younger family members had clamored for a deeper investigation, resulting in an official study by a professor from the University of Munich. “It is all correct,” family spokesperson Peter Harf told German newspaper the Bild. “Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty…they belonged in jail.”
But neither Reimann was ever persecuted for their actions.
Today’s Reimann family has outspokenly identified their inheritance of slavery and support for Nazis. “We were all ashamed and turned as white as the wall,” Harf said on behalf of the family. “There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting.”
The family plans to give $11 million to a yet undecided charity, and will release the entirety of the academic report on the family’s history to the public. “The whole truth must be put on the table,” Harf said.
No word yet if the company will be giving out any free donuts, or in the case of Pret A Manger, mayonnaise-themed sandwiches.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny