Luftwaffe Lieutenant Harald Quandt was fortunate to be in a British prisoner of war camp in the Libyan port city of Benghazi at the end of World War II. He was lucky that the bullet which ended his participation in the war did not end his life.
He was blessed not to share the fate of his six young step-siblings, drugged and then fed cyanide capsules in the Führerbunker a day after Adolf Hitler took his own life there.
By the time then 18-year-old Harald Quandt left home for the military in 1939, he had spent roughly half of his life among the most powerful people in Nazi Germany. Quandt’s parents divorced in 1929, and two years later his mother married Paul Joseph Goebbels.
Two years after that, the best man at Joseph and Magda Goebbels’ wedding would be elected Chancellor of Germany and deem himself “Führer.”
Harald Quandt’s step-father had been instrumental in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and was perhaps more personally and ideologically aligned with the Führer than any of the Nazi leadership. Appointed as Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels used his talent for mass persuasion with the dedicated zeal of a true believer.
Even seventy years after the end of the war, Goebbels’ name continues to evoke images of book burnings and anti-Semitic vitriol. With the end of the war imminent, Joseph and Magda Goebbels saw death as the only honorable alternative for their children and themselves. Before she took her life (or it was taken by her husband), Magda Goebbels wrote a letter to her son, Harald, and poisoned her six young children.
In her letter, which Harald received in that Benghazi POW camp, Magda Goebbels informed him of her resolution to die along with her children and she urged him to be loyal to self and country.
Guenther Quandt, Harald’s biological father, was not a member of Hitler’s inner circle, but the munitions produced in his factories were critical to the German war effort, and he was eventually appointed a “Wehrwirtschaftsführer,” or “Leader of the Armament Economy.” Guenther Quandt’s main loyalty was to his business, and his membership in the Nazi Party came only after the party had risen to power and likely had more to do with business opportunity than with adherence to Nazi ideology.
He certainly had no qualms about profiting from war; having used money earned manufacturing Army uniforms during World War I to build an industrial empire. Between the wars, Quandt bought Accumulatoren-Fabrik AG (AFA), a battery manufacturing company and Berlin-Karlsruher Industriewerken AG (BKIW), a weapons-producing company that had been retooled to make sewing machines and silverware.
During World War II, AFA produced batteries for German U-Boats, and V-2 rocket launchers and BKIW produced Mauser firearms, ammunition, and anti-aircraft shells. Herbert Quandt, Guenther’s eldest son and Harald’s half-brother, was also involved in the wartime economy, running a subsidiary of AFA and acting as Director of Personnel for the company.
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