German car firm 'used hair from Auschwitz'

Rolls of textiles made by Schaeffler 'contain hair from 40,000 death camp inmates'

One of the pillars of German industry, the giant but debt-crippled Schaeffler car parts supplier, was accused yesterday of using hair shorn from at least 40,000 Auschwitz death camp prisoners to make textiles at its factories in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War.

The highly disturbing allegations were contained in new evidence unearthed by Polish historians at the Auschwitz museum, who said they had found rolls of fabric made from camp inmates' hair at a former Schaeffler factory in Poland's southern region of Silesia.

The discovery was the latest in a series of damaging blows for the ailing Schaeffler concern, which employs 200,000 people worldwide. The company is currently saddled with debts totalling €14bn (£12.6bn) and faces the prospect of bankruptcy.

Last month, Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, the concern's flamboyant and usually fur-coated millionaire owner, appeared at a trade union rally and wept openly as she appealed to the government of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for a state-funded bailout. In an attempt to clear up rumours about the company's wartime role, Mrs Schaeffler recently admitted to using slave labourers at its factories during the Second World War. However, the company's officially published history still only begins in 1946.

The company's own historian dismissed the allegations yesterday and said there was no evidence to support the theory that Schaeffler processed death camp inmates' hair industrially during the Second World War.

But Dr Jacek Lachendro, a historian at the Auschwitz museum, told Germany's Der Spiegel television channel that 1.95 tonnes of cloth made from inmates' hair had been discovered at a former Schaeffler textile and army tank parts factory in the town of Kiertz (formerly Katscher) after the Germans withdrew at the end of the war.

The amount of cloth, which was pictured on Spiegel television as rolls of closely-woven brownish fabric, was said to have derived from the hair shorn from some 40,000 Auschwitz prisoners. Dr Lachendro said that subsequent analysis of the hair showed that some of it contained traces of the Zyklon B gas used by the Nazis to murder millions in the death camps.

Former workers at the factory in Kiertz who were interviewed on the programme said that they remembered two wagon-loads of human hair being delivered to the company in 1943. Kiertz is three hours' drive away from the Auschwitz camp.

Hair was routinely shorn from prisoners, usually on arrival, at the death camps. The Nazi war machine used it to make army blankets and socks for U-boat crews. The Auschwitz museum on the site of the former death camp displays a store filled to the roof with inmates' hair originally intended for so-called "human recycling".

The Kiertz textile factory where the hair is alleged to have been processed formerly belonged to the Jewish-owned Davistan AG concern on which the Schaeffler empire was founded after it was taken over by the brothers Wilhelm and Georg Schaeffler. Their company made armaments for the Nazi war machine, but after the Second World War it re-emerged as one of Germany's main suppliers of parts to the car industry, specialising in needle roller bearings.

However, the devastating impact of the credit crunch coupled with Schaeffler's misjudged hostile takeover of the tyre giant Continental have since plunged the concern into its worst crisis since the war.

Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, an Austrian born former medical student, married into the concern and became its sole owner in 1996 after her husband, Georg, died. Last month she took the unprecedented step of joining a demonstration staged by 800 of her company's employees to appeal for government help. Previously, the company's management style had been called "feudal".

Mrs Merkel's government, which is currently being asked to provide state aid for Germany's ailing Opel car company, has still to decide whether it will help Schaeffler with a bailout.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker