Owners of BMW say Nazi forced-labour charges 'not new'

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The reclusive main owners of the BMW car company said Monday that allegations in a television documentary about their ancestors' wartime business dealings were hardly new. The one-hour programme, The Silence of the Quandts, was aired without advance notice by ARD public television just before midnight Sunday. ARD denied the unscheduled showing had been designed to avoid legal intervention.

The documentary detailed how Guenther Quandt, who died in 1954, owned battery factories which were kept going by press-ganged or concentration-camp labour during the Second World War.

His son, Herbert Quandt, who died in 1982, obtained control of BMW in 1959. His heirs, who own nearly 47 per cent of BMW, are one of Germany's wealthiest families. They keep out of the celebrity limelight and manage BMW discreetly.

Both historians and survivors set out the war allegations. The only family member seen in the documentary was Sven Quandt, grandson of the founder, who said children are not guilty of their fathers' acts.

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