Profiting from Persecution

C&A Uncovers Nazi-Era Abuses

C&A
A C&A production facility in London. Photo: C&A
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A growing number of German companies are admitting crimes from the Nazi era. C&A was initially uneasy with the Third Reich but managed to not only to ingratiate itself with the regime but profit from its abuses.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer founded C&A in the Netherlands in 1841.
    • During the Nazi era the company used forced labor in Jewish ghettos and bought up properties Jewish owners had been forced to sell.
    • In 2010 it was revealed that the company was using sweatshop labor in Great Britain.
  • Audio

    Audio

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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.

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