The company founders of the weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch were fellow travelers in Nazi times, according to a study. "Edmund Heckler was an opportunist who put his expertise at the service of war preparations and the war economy," according to the study commissioned by the company and presented Tuesday in Oberndorf by the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte (GUG). He had joined the NSDAP at the end of 1939 to advance in his professional career.
German industry was deeply involved in Nazi crimes. Numerous companies have long since had their past, which was burdened by the use of forced laborers, reappraised by historians. Heckler & Koch is a special case in this respect, since the company was not founded until 1949, in the days of the Federal Republic. For decades, the company did not concern itself with the question of what its founders had done before that. A picture-heavy company chronicle that appeared on the occasion of the company's 50th anniversary in 1999 did not deal with this critically.
The historian's study that has now been published also shed light on the past of the other founders: Theodor Koch was a sustaining member of the SS, he supported the National Socialist organization financially. However, he was "not a committed National Socialist," said study author Stefanie van de Kerkhof. The researchers also do not see the third founder, Alexius Seidel, as an active Nazi.
A precursor to H&K was the Oberndorf-based Mauser-Werke - where Koch and Seidel worked. Engineer Heckler, on the other hand, had worked for the ammunition company Hasag in Saxony during wartime, as plant manager of a cartridge factory in Taucha with more than 1,000 employees. He was not responsible for a neighboring Hasag tank factory where, according to witness reports, conditions were particularly dire.
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