OK to buy German cars?

Growing up I would often hear Dad and others saying something to the effect of buying a Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz is tantamount to supporting Nazi Germany.

However, in their view it was perfectly acceptable to buy a Ford, despite Henry’s obsession with the “Elders of Zion.”

While I have no doubt regarding the origins of the Volkswagen enterprise, is it logical to continue to effectively boycott German manufacturers because of such origins? Or to paraphrase Jackie Mason, are the people who say “You think I’d drive a German car?” just not quite wealthy enough to afford a Mercedes?

“Give the Governor harrumph!”

I’ve not seen this issue covered from a logical standpoint. It would be difficult to do so, since the remains of the bombed-out factories were often transferred to new owners (I forget how this occurred and whether it occurred specifically in the case of MB; I’ll try to look it up).

For people whom I know who make this choice, it’s emotional. They are simply unwilling to own, or sometimes even ride, in a brand with such associations. Others do it as a courtesy in consideration of other’s emotions (if Dad or the Senior Partner or your next door neighbor survived the concentration camps, you may not want to buy the Benz regardless of your own feelings).

It’s kind of like not buying Exxon gas because Esso once laid your parents off. You know in your head that the whole management has changed and the owners are a faceless group of public shareholders, but you don’t care.

The Wall St. Journal did a story on this when Chrysler and Daimler-Benz announced their merger. The story is not available on their website (damn capitalists!), but you may be able to find it on fiche or optical disc at a library.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

I had a co-worker once who was a little confused.

He would not buy a Japanese car in the mid-to-late 70’s like everyone else because he had “fought against those gooks in Korea”.

He was thinking about buying a nice German Datsun, though. I didn’t even try…

Sue from El Paso

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

Hey, I did a broadcast remote when a dealer introduced the Mitsubishi line(this was a few years ago). A lot of the first people to drop in the showroom were WWII vets who served in the Pacific. And they let us know that Mitsubishi produced the Zero. They didn’t want a test drive, either.

How far back should this go? Should we continue to boycott South African companies because of apartheid? Should we boycott American companies because of slavery? Should we boycott Britian because of that whole taxes-without-representation thing? Or Spain because of the Spanish Inquisition? These aren’t completely rhetorical questions. It’s hard to say how long the “statute of limitations” should last. Personally, I think that half a century is long enough, but I can understand how some people would disagree (especially if they had experienced WWII first hand).

If you’re going to hold grudges against any given country, and boycott any products from that country, you may have a hard time sorting things out.

Example: a lot of Japanese cars are built in the USA, while a lot of American cars are built in Japan. So… is buying a Dodge Colt more or less acceptable than buying a Toyota Camry? Which is more patriotic? Which is “buying American”?

Or… what if you buy a computer that’s “Made in the USA,” but all of its components were made in China/Japan/Taiwan/Malaysia/everyplace else? How pure must a product be?

And finally, how long can we hold a grudge? How do we deal with countries that were our allies at some times and our enemies at others? Serbia is on our… manure list now, but during WW2, they were on our side. If I had a jacket made in Serbia ten years ago, should I burn it now?

I don’t mean to be dismissive of the question, because I sympathize with people who want to use their economic power. Personally, I try very hard not to buy products from CHina… but you know what? It’s extremely tough not to buy from CHina!!! Every other product out there (especially electronics) is made in China. Have I ever, out of sheer frustration and desperation, bought CHinese products? DOZENS of times!!! I tell you, ideological purity ain’t easy!

I’m all for using your economic vote against companies and countries that are currently engaging in a socially irresponsible behavior (China is a great example). I don’t believe it makes sense to ‘hold a grudge’. I mean, Mitsubishi isn’t ‘evil’ because they built Zeros anymore than Boeing is ‘evil’ because they built the bomber that levelled Hiroshima.

Also, after WWII was over we poured billions into the Japanese and German economies because we knew that it would be much easier for them to respect a treaty if they were able to feed their families and keep the heater going. Financial problems in Germany going all the way back to World War I were at the heart of the fascist rise to power.

My point is that once a country has been ‘beaten’ and is no longer doing the behaviors that you found threatening or whatever, it is best to help them back onto their feet.

Good points all, and sensitive to those who actually suffered at the hands of our former adversaries. To the best of my (limited) knowledge, there’s no actual movement or organization to boycott any of these companies, at least not for their pasts.

The people I know who won’t purchase a Mercedes, for example, do it as a highly personal choice. And while they don’t rail against M-B’s in the street, they might be offended if I bought one (an unlikely proposition in any case).

And almost all of them don’t boycott all German products. They focus on brand names that held symbolism for them. Hitler riding in his Mercedes convertible, that sort of thing. More than one person has told me that if Mercedes changed its name, they’d buy a 300S in a second.

So I guess any “statute of limitations” has to go to the individual. About the only younger people I know who do this are the grandsons and granddaughters of Holocaust victims or survivors.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Taxis in Israel are Mercedes Benz. What does that tell you?

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


Many of the German companies that people boycott today because of their wartime operations are the same company in name only.
Their operations were often completely or nearly completely in ruin by the end of the war due to allied bombing. Many of the company heads were removed through a variety of de-Nazification plans after the end of the war, and the companies effectively ceased to exist. Boycott if you wish, but don’t pretend you’re punishing anyone or righting a wrong.

Cecil had a column on this a few years back, when someone asked about the manufacturer of a coffeemaker. I couldn’t find it, though, this site’s search function doesn’t search or function.

It’s a long way to heaven, but only three short steps to hell.

Out of pure curiosity, has any other country ever boycotted USA products because of something we’ve done?

I’m sure the Shah of Iran (when he was around) or Saddam Hussein has probably done something like this, but do we ever hear about it?

The Shah Of Iran, Mr Palevi, was our puppet. I think you meant the Iatolah Assaholea.

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


Name-changing seems to work pretty well for these companies. How many people can link Hoechst, Bayer and BASF to WW2?

But if it’s supposed to be a symbolic thing I guess it doesn’t matter. Besides how easy would it be to boycott those 3?

The past is not necessarily prologue.

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


Well I think by definition it IS but that’s not the point here.

In this day and age, refusing to buy German cars because the Germans are supposedly Nazis is wrong, uninformed, and illogical.
Everything remotely related to Nazism in Germany is pretty much illegal nowadays as far as I have ever heard. I don’t see how anyone could think that buying a Porsche helps out the National Socialist Party. Especially seeing as how Germany was turned to ashes by their eviction, it’s been nearly 3 generations since the end of the war, and Germany as a whole has gone through about 3 differnet political-economic phases in that time. Now the factors are totally global-economic.
So, if you wanted to NOT buy German because you’d rather buy American goods and thereby support American industry, that’s a different matter; both logical and completely up to personal preference.

By the way, I would hate to be German and have the War thrown in my face all the time. It must suck.

>>Taxis in Israel are Mercedes Benz. What does that tell you?<<

The taxis (and buses, too) are part of the reparations than Germany pays Israel.


>>By the way, I would hate to be German and have the War thrown in my face all
the time. It must suck.<<

I should read everything before making a post.

I had several German friends in Israel, and their relationship to the war was very interesting. Apparently, German kids are raised with a kind of heavy guilt that rather seems unfair. One of my friends lost her purse one day, and was pleased to when an woman called her (her number was in the purse) to tell her that she had found the purse, and would she like to come for tea when she retrieved it? My friend agreed, but later told me that she had felt very nervous; the woman was a Holocaust survivor, and my friend (age 19) was really amazed that she would even want to talk to her. Although she isn’t Jewish, she wears a Star of David, and told me that her mom is obsessed with all things Jewish (something rather common in Germany, I gather). Another friend is dating an Israeli, and his father is VERY upset that his son goes out with a German. It’s a strange thing, and you’re right, it sucks to have to deal with this.



Are you saying that Germany GIVES the taxi cabs and buses to Israel free, or at a reduced cost?

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


I’m glad to see other people casting their corporate vote with their dollars beyond just the immediate gratification. I’m sad that companies rarely pay any attention to this unless it’s done by an organized group.

As to the more pertinent topic at hand and if I remember my current events right, isn’t there a class-action lawsuit against some of the German car manufacturers who used Jews as slaves during and around WWII? IMHO, this transcends the half-century boundary implied earlier because those companies continue to benefit from the illegal advantage they had back then–i.e. they could spend more money on R&D and generally make their cars better by not paying their workers.

When I shop for big-ticket items, I consider factors outside the immediately tangible properties of the product (although they are almost my bottom consideration.) I hope that companies recognize they can make more money by making better decisions–they can sway people on the fence (i.e. Ford Taurus / Volkswagen Jetta might be the top two choices on someones list, and the decision might be made based on political reasons.)

Hey, aren’t you supposed to be at work?

Actually, supporting the German economy & helping them rebuid (the Marshall Plan) after World War II is one of the, if not the, biggest factors leading to the unprecedented peace & prosperity of Western Europe for the last 54 years.

The economic isolation policies designed to punish Germany for WW I, combined with a world-wide depression, had more to do with Hitler’s rise to power than any ideology of his. Continuing to boycott German/Japanese products now makes about as much sense as boycotting British goods due to hard feeling over the Revolution & the War of 1812.

Learn from history, don’t live in it.

Sue from El Paso

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.