Bertelsmann during the National Socialist Era

In 1999-2002, Bertelsmann became the first German media company to undertake an independent review of its corporate history during the National Socialist era. In early 1999, the then Bertelsmann AG commissioned a panel of four scholars to investigate this part of its history. The “Independent Historical Commission for Research into the History of Bertelsmann in the Third Reich” (IHC), chaired by historian Saul Friedländer, presented its report in October 2002. The study was published by C. Bertelsmann Verlag. The IHC was given unrestricted access to all relevant company documents and full independence in matters of research and publication. With this measure, Bertelsmann corrected the previously incomplete and misleading presentation of its own history. Both the company’s management and its owning family unreservedly accept the commission’s report as the official account of the company’s history during the Third Reich – and as an excellent basis for all future public and academic discussions. The documents compiled by the IHC formed the basis for a newly established corporate archive, where they are accessible to the public.

“By convening the Independent Historical Commission to research Bertelsmann’s history during the Third Reich, the company set standards for dealing with its own history at the time. Since the report was presented in 2002, Bertelsmann has fully embraced the findings of the IHC report and dealt with them in an open and transparent manner. The Commission’s unrestricted autonomy, i.e. complete freedom from any interference by the company, was a basic prerequisite for restoring Bertelsmann’s credibility and integrity with regard to the company’s history. I strongly believe that as an international company, we bear a special responsibility for discussing our history. The high academic standard of the IHC report remains the benchmark for any consideration of our history.”

Thomas Rabe

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Saul Friedländer

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Saul Friedländer (born 1932) is Professor of History at Tel Aviv University and at the University of California in Los Angeles.
He was, among other things, a member of the Independent Commission of Experts “Switzerland – Second World War”. His numerous publications include “Das Dritte Reich und die Juden – Die Jahre der Verfolgung 1933-1939 (The Third Reich and the Jews – The Years of Persecution 1933-1939; Munich 1998), “Wenn die Erinnerung kommt” (When Memory Comes, Munich 1979), “Kitsch und Tod. Der Widerschein des Nazismus” (Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death, new edition Frankfurt am Main 1999).

Prof. Dr. Norbert Frei

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Trutz Rendtorff

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Wittmann

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