Harald Quandt : biography
Harald Quandt (1 November 1921 – 22 September 1967) was a German industrialist and the stepson of Joseph Goebbels. After World War II, Quandt and his half-brother Herbert Quandt ran the industrial empire that was left to them by their father.
After returning to Germany, he first assisted his half-brother in re-building the family firms, and then from 1949 to 1953 studied mechanical engineering in Hanover and Stuttgart, where his family owned large firms (AFA/VARTA in Hanover, a private equity firm in Stuttgart).
His father died in 1954, leaving his empire jointly to Herbert and Harald, and making Harald one of the wealthiest men in West Germany. By then, the Quandt group consisted of more than 200 companies, ranging from the original textile businesses to pharmaceutical company Altana AG. The family holdings also included large stakes in the German auto industry with nearly 10% of Daimler-Benz and 30% of BMW. Although Herbert and Harald jointly managed the companies, Herbert focused on AFA/VARTA and the automotive investments, while Harald was in charge of IWKA and the engineering and tooling companies. Harald was an enthusiast of the amphibious vehicle known as the Amphicar that was manufactured by IWKA and his death was a factor in the ceasing of production of the Amphicar.
Quandt married Inge Bandekow (1928–1978), who was the daughter of the company’s lawyer and worked as a secretary with his father, at the beginning of the 1950s. In the following 17 years, the couple had five daughters: Katarina Geller (1951), Gabriele Quandt-Langenscheidt (1952), Anette May-Thies (1954), Colleen-Bettina Rosenblat-Mo (1962) and Patricia Halterman (1967–2005).
Quandt had the reputation of being a “committed playboy".
Harald Quandt was born in Charlottenburg, the son of industrialist Günther Quandt and Magda Behrend Rietschel who had married in 1921. Although the couple divorced in 1929, they remained on extremely friendly terms. Magda later married Goebbels at a property owned by Günther Quandt. Adolf Hitler was Goebbels’ best man.
After his mother’s re-marriage, Quandt remained with his father who became a prominent business leader in the Third Reich. Nevertheless he paid regular visits to his mother, who had become "the First Lady of the Third Reich", and to his stepfather, who was minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933. After 1934, he returned to his mother and lived with the Goebbels family until passing his school-leaving examination in 1940. Residing with his adopted family, he raised several eyebrows by supporting the sloganeering of the Indian politician Bose. For this reason he was sent away to the front in Italy.
He served as a lieutenant in the Luftwaffe during World War II. He was injured and later captured by Allied troops in Italy in 1944; he was released in 1947. Magda and Joseph Goebbels committed suicide after murdering their six children in the Führerbunker in May 1945. Harald was the only one of Magda’s children to survive.
Harald Quandt’s five daughters inherited about 1.5 billion deutsche marks ($760 million) and would later increase their wealth through the Harald Quandt Holding GmbH, a Germany-based family investment company and trust named after their father. Today, they share a fortune worth at least $6 billion.
He survived an aviation accident at Zurich International Airport but died in 1967 when another of his aircraft crashed in Cuneo, Italy.
In popular culture
A documentary film The Silence of the Quandts by the German public broadcaster ARD described in October 2007 the role of the Quandt family businesses during the Second World War. The family’s Nazi past was not well known, but the documentary film revealed this to a wide audience and confronted the Quandts about the use of slave labourers in the family’s factories during World War II. As a result four family members announced, on behalf of the entire Quandt family, their intention to fund a research project in which a historian will examine the family’s activities during Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship.
Quandt’s biological father, Günther Quandt, earned the title of Wehrwirtschaftsführer, the name given to an elite group of businessmen who were crucial to the production of war materials for the Third Reich; Guenther Quandt was “one of the leading industrialists in the Third Reich and the Second World War.”
From 1940 to 1945, the Quandt family factories were staffed with more than 50,000 forced civilian laborers, prisoners of war and concentration camp workers. In addition, Guenther Quandt appropriated assets from Jewish company owners. Harald Quandt’s children would later inherit the profits from these businesses.