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VW chief apologises for Auschwitz pun

17 March 2019

The chief executive of Volkswagen is facing calls to resign after an astonishing gaffe in which he appeared to riff on a Nazi death camp slogan.

Diess issued a statement calling his use of the phrase "definitely an unfortunate choice of words", according to the BBC. "For that I would like to fully and completely apologize".

Speaking to workers at a VW event earlier this week, CEO Herbert Diess coined the line "EBIT macht frei" - a German phrase that echoed "Arbeit macht frei", the false promise "Work makes you free" that was emblazoned atop the wrought-iron gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Diess had said "Ebit macht frei", a play on the accounting term "Ebit", which is an acronym to describe "earnings before interest and taxes" and a key part of business financial statements.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has apologised for comments made which appeared to play on a Nazi-era slogan, capping a rough week for the automaker battling a USA government lawsuit.

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Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the National Socialist Party under Adolf Hitler to develop an affordable economy auto that would eventually become the Volkswagen Beetle.

Volkswagen's first factory was built in 1938 in Wolfsburg by the Nazi party.

Responding on LinkedIn, Diess said he had meant to say that more profitable divisions had more freedom to make decisions and hadn't meant to invoke the Nazi slogan. The Times said that more than 300 children died at the nursery. In his post, Diess said that he and the firm's employees "are aware of the special responsibility of Volkswagen in connection with the Third Reich", referring to the period between 1933 and 1945 when Germany was under Hitler's rule.

Volkswagen's CEO has apologised for the remarks.

VW chief apologises for Auschwitz pun