German family, stakeholders in Krispy Kreme, Panera Bread, to donate $11M over Nazi past

The German family that owns a company controlling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Panera Bread and Keurig Dr. Pepper will donate $11 million to charity after learning that its ancestors supported Adolf Hitler and used forced laborers under the Nazis.

Albert Reimann Sr. and son Albert Reimann Jr., donated to Hitler's SS and used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced laborers, according to a report in German newspaper the Bild.

Reimann family spokesman Peter Harf, the chairman and managing partner of the family's JAB Holding Co., said the Bild's report was accurate and had been confirmed by additional research commissioned by the Reimann children and grandchildren.

“It is all correct,” he commented to the Bild. “Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty."

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The older Reimanns – the father died in 1954, his son in 1984 – did not talk about the family's history with the Nazis, Harf told the newspaper, and the family thought it learned all of the company's connections in a 1978 report.

"Our stand at the time was: there were companies where things were worse than they were here," Harf said, in comments translated into English and forwarded by the Reimann family's spokesperson to USA TODAY.

A post-war investigation initially banned the family's company from staying in business but was overturned by the U.S., the Bild reported. After reading family documents, the younger Reimanns in 2014 commissioned University of Munich economic historian Paul Erker to examine the family history, Harf said.

"At the beginning of 2014 we decided: We want to know more," Harf said. "(Erker) is to work through the Reimann story completely and independently."

While the newspaper did not come up with an overall number of forced laborers used during World War II, it found that in 1943 the company used 175, amounting to about 30 percent of the total workforce in its industrial chemicals company.

“We were all ashamed and turned as white as the wall,” Harf said. “There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting.”

JAB Holding has built a considerable food portfolio. In May 2018, it acquired ready-to-eat food chain Pret A Manger, just four months after merging Dr Pepper Snapple Group with Keurig Green Mountain  in January 2018 to create Keurig Dr Pepper.

The Luxembourg-based investment firm company acquired Panera Bread in 2017 and owns controlling stakes in Krispy Kreme ( acquired in 2016), Peet's Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Company and Einstein Noah Restaurant Group.

The 10 million euros ($11.3 million) will be donated to a charity, still be to determined, and the historian's report will be be released to the public, Harf said.

“The whole truth must be put on the table,” he said.

Contributing: Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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