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Owner of Krispy Kreme and Panera Bread acknowledges Nazi past

  • Germany's second-richest family, which owns stakes in Krispy Kreme, Panera and other food brands through a company called JAB Holdings, acknowledged links to the Nazi Third Reich.
  • During World War II, JAB forced French prisoners of war and Russian civilians to work in the company's factories.
  • JAB plans to donate $11 million to charity to help make up for its Nazi past.

The German family that holds majority stakes in food brands including Einstein Bros. Bagels, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Panera Bread had close financial ties to Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, a German newspaper reported.

Privately-held JAB Holdings, founded by the Reimann family in 1828, forced French prisoners of war and Russian civilians to work in its factories during World War II, according to the Bild tabloid. Forced labor was also used in private villas belonging to the family, which today owns 90 percent of JAB. Albert Reinmann Sr. and his son were avowed backers of Adolph Hitler, and Reimann Sr. helped finance the paramilitary SS force as early as 1933, the report said.

Both "have passed away, but they actually belong in prison," Peter Harf, a manager partner at JAB and spokesperson for the family, told Bild.

Donation to charity

The company does not dispute the newspaper's findings and plans to donate about $11 million to charity as a result of learning about its past, Harf told the paper.

A majority shareholder in beauty products company Coty, JAB has also acquired brands including Peet's Coffee, Caribou Coffee, Keurig Green Mountain, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia. It purchased Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, which operates three national bagel chains, in 2014.

The Reimann family is worth an estimated $37 billion and is thought to be Germany's second-richest family. It has commissioned a historian to write a report on the family's ties to the Nazis, Harf said.

Other companies have had similar reckonings. Volkswagen, for instance, used concentration camp internees and prisoners of war as forced labor its its factories during the war, and its CEO recently apologized for using a Nazi slogan "work sets you free" at a company event.