HUGO BOSS AND THE NAZIS UNIFORMS

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The German fashion firm Hugo Boss has apologised for its maltreatment of forced workers during World War II when it supplied the Nazis with uniforms. It issued the apology to coincide with the publication of a new history of the company during the Hitler years, which it commissioned itself. Its factory used 140 Polish and 40 French forced workers. The book concludes that company founder Hugo Boss, whose past is already well documented, was a loyal Nazi. “It is clear that Hugo F Boss did not only join the party because it led to contracts for uniform production, but also because he was a follower of National Socialism,” wrote the author, Roman Koester, an economic historian at the Bundeswehr (English: Federal Defence Force) University in Munich.

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Both Mr Koester and the company insist that it had no influence over the contents of the book, although it provided the funding. Under the tile Hugo Boss, 1924-1945, the book recounts the history of the man who founded a clothes factory in Metzingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg in 1924. One of his first big contracts was to supply brown shirts to the early Nazi party. After the war Boss, who died in 1948, sought to argue that he had joined the party in order to save his company. “That may have been the case, but one may not interpret Hugo F Boss’ remarks to mean that he was personally far from National Socialism,” said Mr Koester, his words quoted by The Local Germany news website. “That was certainly not the case.” By 1938, the firm was producing army uniforms, and eventually it manufactured for the Waffen SS too – though it did not, apparently, design the SS uniform.

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From April 1940, Hugo Boss was using forced labourers, mostly women. A camp was built in the area of the factory to house the workers and, according to the abridged English version of Mr Koester’s report, “hygiene levels and food supplies were extremely uncertain at times”. Mr Koester notes that Boss tried to improve conditions in 1944, a year before the war ended, by asking to house his workers himself, and attempting to improve their food situation. “We can only repeat that the behaviour towards the forced labourers was at times harsh and involved coercion, but that concern for their welfare was also displayed, rendering simplistic characterisations impossible,” he writes.

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The company said on its website it wished to “express its profound regret to those who suffered harm or hardship at the factory run by Hugo Ferdinand Boss under National Socialist rule”. After the war Boss was tried and fined for his involvement in Nazi structures. But let’s see shortly the company history to better understand before to make any considerations.

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Hugo Boss started his clothing company in 1924 in Metzingen, a small town south of Stuttgart, where it is still based. However, due to the economic climate in Germany at the time, Boss was forced into bankruptcy. In 1931, he reached an agreement with his creditors, leaving him with six sewing machines to start again. The same year, he became a member of the National Socialist party and a sponsoring member (“Förderndes Mitglied”) of the Schutzstaffel (SS) therefore was economically raised due to their help. He later stated himself that he had joined the party because of their promise to end unemployment and because he felt “temporarily” withdrawn from the Lutheran church. He joined the German Labour Front in 1936, the Reich Air Protection Association in 1939, and the National Socialist People’s Welfare in 1941.

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His sales increased from 38,260 RM in 1932 to over 3,300,000 RM in 1941, while his profits increased in the same period from 5,000 RM to 241,000 RM. Though he claimed in a 1934/1935 advertising that he had been a “supplier for National Socialist uniforms since 1924”, such supplies are probable since 1928/1929 and certain since 1934, when he became an Reichszeugmeisterei-licensed (official) supplier of uniforms to the Sturmabteilung, Schutzstaffel, Hitler Youth, National Socialist Motor Corps, and other party organizations. To meet demand in later years of the war, Boss used about 30 to 40 prisoners of war and about 150 forced (i.e. slave) labourers, from the Baltic States, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. 

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According to German historian Henning Kober, the company managers were “avowed Nazis”, “the Boss were all great admirers of Adolf Hitler”, and Hugo Boss himself had in 1945 in his apartment a photograph of himself with Hitler taken in the latter’s Obersalzberg retreat. In a 1946 judgement, based on his early party membership, his financial support of the SS and the uniforms delivered to the National Socialist party even before 1933, Boss was considered both an “activist” and a “supporter and beneficiary of National Socialism”. He was stripped of his voting rights, his capacity to run a business and, fined “a very heavy penalty” of 100,000 marks. He died in 1948 but his business survived. In 1997, the company appeared in a list of Swiss dormant accounts, which stirred the publication of articles highlighting the involvement of Hugo Boss with the Nazis.

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In 1999, American lawyers filed lawsuits in New Jersey, on behalf of survivors or their families, for the use of forced workers during the war. The company did not comment on these law suits but reiterated an earlier statement that it would “not close its eyes to the past but rather deal with the issues in an open and forthright manner”. It sponsored research by German historian Elisabeth Timm. Nevertheless, after Timm told the press of her findings, the company declined to publish them. In December 1999, an agreement was reached between the German government and a group of American class-action lawyers, Jewish groups, and the United States government to set a $5.1 billion fund, financed equally by German industry and the German government, to compensate slave laborers used by the Germans in World War II.

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Hugo Boss agreed to participate in this fund, for an amount which was estimated by some sources to be “about € 752 000”, while others considered the firm “finally paid an absolute minimum into the compensation fund”. Hugo Boss currently has at least 6,102 points of sale in 124 countries. Hugo Boss AG directly owns over 364 retail stores with over 1,000 stores and shops owned by franchisees. Products are manufactured in a variety of locations, including the company’s own production sites in Metzingen, Germany;Italy;Poland; Turkey; and United States. Hugo Boss has licensing agreements with various companies to produce Hugo Boss branded products.

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These include agreements with Samsung and HTC to produce cell phones; C.W.F. Children Worldwide Fashion SAS to produce children’s clothing; Shiseido and Procter & Gamble Prestige to produce fragrances and skincare; Movado to produce watches; and Safilo to produce sunglasses and eyewear. In 1985, the company was floated on the stock exchange. In 1989, it was sold to a Japanese group. But  in 1991, the Italan Marzotto textile group acquired a 77.5% stake for $165 million.

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Marzotto spun off its fashion brands into the newly created Valentino Fashion Group in 2005. Then, in 2007, it was purchased by Permira, a private equity group. In 2009, BOSS Black was by far the largest segment, consisting 68% of all sales, with the remainder made up by BOSS Orange (17%), BOSS Selection (3%), BOSS Green (3%) and HUGO (9%). Sales taken in company owned stores were 19% of total sales worldwide. In 2010, the company has sales of €1.7 billion and a net profit of €190 million, with royalties of 78 million or 42% of total net profit. In 2012, it had 537 monobrand retail stores. ( Source: Wikipedia )

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Turning back to the “nazis involvement“ must be clear that Hugo Boss factory does not appear to be a concentration camp. All the German companies were using forced labor and often this forced labor had nothing with the Holocaust, but was packed full of POWs and and civilians. However, so did the Russians on an epic scale, including both their own people and German POWs. By the end of communism, more people died in Russian forced labor camps in Siberia than in all of Germany during the war. Looks like pretty much everyone is evil. Also, there is China. Where would our clothing designers be without good old China? This post is just to try to inform you about the facts. Now is up to you to make your consideration concerning if is ethical or not to buy goods from this brand or not. We have also to admit that Hugo Boss products are really elegant and made with high quality. For more information, we invite you to follow the lonk below.


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