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.”
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. Norbert Frei (born 1955) has held the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History at the Ruhr University Bochum since 1997. His main areas of research are German history in the 20th century as well as the history of media and communications. His publications include books on National Socialism (incl. “Der Führerstaat – Nationalsozialistische Herrschaft 1933 bis 1945” [The Führer State – National Socialist Rule 1933 to 1945]; Munich, extended new edition 2002) and on the early history of the Federal Republic (“Vergangenheitspolitik – Die Anfänge der Bundesrepublik und die NS-Vergangenheit” [Politics of the Past – The Beginnings of the Federal Republic and the Nazi Past]; Munich 1997; “Karrieren im Zwielicht. Hitlers Eliten nach 1945” [Careers in the Twilight. Hitler’s Elites after 1945], ed. Frankfurt/M. 2002).
Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Trutz Rendtorff
Prof Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Trutz Rendtorff (born 1931) is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.
His publications deal primarily with the recent history of theology, sociology of religion, and the various fields of ethics, especially political ethics and bioethics (incl. “Theologie in der Moderne. Über Religion im Prozeß der Aufklärung” [Theology in the Modern Age. On Religion in the Process of Enlightenment], Gütersloh 1991; “Politische Ethik und Christenum” [Political Ethics and Christianity], Munich 1978.) His major work “Ethik. Grundelemente, Methodologie und Konkretionen einer ethischen Theologie” (Ethics. Basic Elements, Methodology, and Concretions of an Ethical Theology) was published in a second edition in 1990/91.
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Wittmann
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Wittmann (born 1945) is an honorary professor of the history of the book trade and the social history of literature at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, in addition to his work as head of the literature department at Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting Company). He is Deputy Chairman of the Historical Commission of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association).
Bertelsmann AG Chairman And CEO, On The Occasion Of The Independent Historical Commission's Final Report