Alex Constantine - May 7, 2015
Nazis, child slave labor all in the past - Lufthansa is much different today
Science Codex, May 7, 2015
The history of German air traffic is closely interwoven with the history of the “Lufthansa” enterprise. That history went hand in hand with illegal government weapons manufacturing, and they had close ties to the Adolph Hitler's National Socialist regime and used child slave labor.
At least before the corporation reinvented itself in 1955. Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum historian Dr Lutz Budrass investigated the enterprise’s history; he was initially commissioned by Lufthansa, which, however, subsequently decided not to have the results published. The Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum’s science magazine “RUBIN” instead tells the story.
In need of financial aid: armament and support by the Nazi regime
Today, Lufthansa has only one objective: running profitable air traffic operations. It does not play in industrial side venues. This has not always been the case.
“In the 1920s and 1930s, the corporation operated like a secret armament agency, guided by the government,” says Lutz Budrass. That was because the enterprise was not profitable enough without a second core competence. During the Great Depression of 1929, there were talks of canceling governmental subsidies for aviation companies. As a result, Lufthansa executives soon established ties to the National Socialist regime in order to obtain support for the air traffic business. Erhard Milch, Technical Director at Lufthansa, worked closely with Hermann Göring, the deputy leader of the National Socialist Party.
Children in forced labor
“That wasn’t anything out of the ordinary,” says Budrass. “But in order to repair planes, one had to crawl into nooks and crannies. Therefore, there was a great demand for small people.”
Accordingly, forced laborers were very often children. When air armament was at its peak in the early 1940s, 1.9 million people were employed in the aviation industry in Germany.
In 1945, however, success came to an abrupt end because the Allies ruled that German pilots were no longer allowed to fly. The Lufthansa company was closed down.
“Impressive lessons from history”
On May 5, 1955 Lufthansa was officially relaunched. Ever since then, the enterprise has been consistently guided by three principles: it never again wants to be the sales market for the German aviation industry alone. The number of people in the Federal Department of Transportation, who have the right to regulate Lufthansa, and hence the political influence on the company have been kept at a minimum from the very beginning. Since its foundation, the corporation has insisted on being independent from government subsidies in the long term.
Today, Lufthansa is fully privatized. Lutz Budrass believes that new Lufthansa’s corporate policy can only be explained if its past is understood. The corporation has learned impressive lessons from its history. According to the RUB historian, it is a pity that it does not want to have anything to do with its fascinating past. Budrass concludes: “I’d happily fly with Lufthansa any time.”