To get to know the Brenninkmeijers, the dynasty that founded clothing retailer C&A and has operated it for five generations, you have to travel to Mettingen. A short distance outside the small town about 20 kilometers from the city of Osnabrück, stands the family’s ancestral home. Built in the 18th century, the “Brenninckhof” is a straightforward half-timbered farmhouse in typical regional style. These days, it’s in disrepair, fenced off and in danger of collapse.
A few kilometers away in the center of Mettingen is a private museum dedicated to the family. The Draiflessen Collection can be visited by appointment four days a week. The name is a throwback to the argot of the wandering fabric traders in the 17th century and evokes the Brenninkmeijer family’s roots in the Westphalia, as well as Christian values and a tradition of honest trade.
But research has revealed a time when such values were glaringly absent from the company’s practices. The honest farmhouse and whitewashed museum obscure uncomfortable secrets from the National Socialist years, 1933 to 1945.