by Amanda Kloer
With the galactically-high price tag that comes with a Porsche, you’d think each of the people involved in making one are being paid pretty handsomely. That might be the case today, but it wasn’t always so. Porsche has admitted to using forced labor in their factories during Hitler’s regime in Germany before and during WWII, and are now investigating the extent of the abuses.
Porsche has owned up to enslaving at least 50 workers during that period, but journalist and researcher Ulrich Viehoefer claims that up to 300 might have been enslaved during that period, and possibly more. 300 people might not seem like a huge number, but it represents over half of the workforce of Porsche at the time. Porsche has thus far paid 2.5 million euros in reparations to victims of forced labor in their factories, but the discovery of an additional 300 could increase that amount.
Why is it important that Porsche is investigating allegations of forced slavery over 60 years ago? For one, it sets a great precedent for companies that abused or enslaved workers in Nazi Germany and under other regimes with a general disdain for human rights to face up to their history. The reparations especially could help pave the way for other companies to repay the individuals and families of those they have wrong. The investigation also practically puts a halo on Porsche’s head — so few corporations are willing to examine, much less address, serious human rights abuses in their past. The investigation has the potential not just to help Porsche’s former victims, but cement better labor practices for Porsche and it’s competitors.
So props to Porsche for taking on a hard but important task. Hopefully their initiative and focus on justice will help encourage other companies — you know who you are — to address historical human rights abuses. After all, if you can’t face the problems in your past, how can you face the problems in your present?
Photo credit: stephenhanafin