Volkswagen chairman apologises for unintentional Nazi reference

Anger as VW chief executive plays on Nazi slogan at company event

Diess quickly apologized and admitted that it was "definitely an unfortunate choice of words", and his employer has a "special responsibility in connection with the Third Reich", according to the BBC. "I would like to apologise in any form".

Volkswagen's supervisory board criticized a remark made by Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess that appeared to play on the slogan on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp, "Work sets you free". Ebit is an acronym for "earnings before interest and taxes".

Herbert Diess, CEO of German automaker Volkswagen AG, speaks at the company's annual press conference at Volkswagen headquarters on March 12, 2019 in Wolfsburg, Germany.

"At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context", Diess said in the statement.

Volkswagen was founded in 1937, as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's vision to enable German families to own their first vehicle.

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The Volkswagen factory was also repurposed during the Nazi era to build military vehicles and equipment. Within Volkswagen, "brands with a higher margins have more freedom within the Group to make their own decisions". Founded in 1937 as part of Adolf Hitler's vision for every German family to own a auto, Volkswagen used more than 15,000 slave laborers during the war as it manufactured vehicles for the German army. Diess' comments were first reported by German news organizations.

Diess took to social media this week to apologize for the gaffe.

Analysts at Bernstein said management change at Volkswagen had become a significant risk following the supervisory board's statement.

VW said the SEC complaint is "legally and factually flawed" and the company will "contest it vigorously".

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