Book review: History & Profit

As your Friday read you may want to consider the excellent book by Sebastian Brunger: Geschichte und Gewinn. Der Umgang deutscher Konzerne mit ihrer NS-Vergangenheit [History and Profit. How German corporations dealt with their NS past]. And if you don’t read German, Business History has online advance published an English language review of the book:

In August 1948, former I.G. Farben manager Fritz ter Meer had just been sentenced to seven years in prison for the concern’s use of concentration camp inmates in Auschwitz. Nonetheless, ter Meer’s conclusion was self-confident and resolute: ‘We have led the most severe point of the prosecution – the alleged alliance with Hitler and preparation of a war of aggression – so neatly ad absurdum, that this part of the verdict brings a clear exoneration for I.G. Farben, the German industry and the German people.’11. Original quotation: p. 93.View all notes By that, ter Meer had set the tone for German industry’s interpretation of their past for the following decades.

Geschichte und Gewinn (‘History and Profit’) is the revised version of the author’s doctoral thesis, submitted at Humboldt University in Berlin in 2015. It has a twofold perspective. On the one side, he analyses how German businesses after 1945 dealt with their role during the ‘Third Reich’. He shows how the narratives both reflected and influenced broader trends in German society’s struggle with the past. The main focus is on four industrial giants whose history has been at the centre of fierce public debate at different times between 1945 and today: Deutsche Bank, Daimler-Benz, Degussa and the I.G. Farben-successor Bayer. On the other side, Brünger puts the focus on the development of business history as an academic discipline, which he understands as deeply intertwined with those debates. He shows how the genre of business histories developed from mere apologetic festschriften, often written by employees of the companies themselves, towards an academic discipline, which strives for a broader theoretical and methodological foundation as well as a critical distance from its object of research.

To continue reading, click here.

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