Hugo Boss Owns Up to Founder's Nazi Past
On August 15 The New York Times reported and this Wednesday the The BBC wrote that the German fashion company Hugo Boss A.G. (now owned by an Italian company) has apologized for “its maltreatment of forced workers during World War II when it supplied the Nazis with uniforms.” The apology was designed to coincide with the publication of a new history of the company during the Hitler years, Hugo Boss, 1924-1945, which the company commissioned itself. The book states that the founder, Hugo F. Boss, “was a loyal Nazi.”
The Boss connection to the Nazis has already been well documented. I included a brief reference in Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. This new admission shows the current firm wants to turn the page on this sordid history.
“It is clear that Hugo F Boss did not only join the party because it led to contracts for uniform production, but also because he was a follower of National Socialism,” wrote the author, Roman Koester, an economic historian at the Bundeswehr (German army) University in Munich.
According the the BBC, the book recounts one of Boss’ “first big contracts was to supply brown shirts to the early Nazi party. After the war Boss, who died in 1948, sought to argue that he had joined the party in order to save his company.”
By 1938, the firm was producing army uniforms, and manufactured for the Waffen SS too – “though it did not, apparently, design the SS uniform,” which has been claimed. From April 1940, Hugo Boss was using forced laborers, mostly women. A camp was built in the area of the factory to house the workers and “hygiene levels and food supplies were extremely uncertain at times”.
By way of apology, the company wished to “express its profound regret to those who suffered harm or hardship at the factory run by Hugo Ferdinand Boss under National Socialist rule,” says its website.
(Illustration above from Organizational Handbook of the NSDAP, 1936.)
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