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  5. Volkswagen comes to terms with its past in Brazil

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Volkswagen comes to terms with its past in Brazil

  • Volkswagen is the first automotive company to examine its history during Brazilian military regime
  • Scientific study by Professor Dr. Christopher Kopper investigates the role of Volkswagen from the years 1964 till 1985
  • Volkswagen do Brasil reaches out to those affected and launches comprehensive package of measures as part of its social responsibility  

Volkswagen presents today the study over the period of the military regime in Brazil, carried out by Professor Dr. Christopher Kopper, Bielefeld University. The distinguished historian was commissioned by the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG in 2016 to examine the company’s role from 1964 till 1985. Volkswagen is the first automotive enterprise in the country examining its history during that time. The research findings in German, English and Portuguese can be downloaded from the Volkswagen AG homepage.

Based on the statements made by former employees to the National Truth Commission in 2014, Volkswagen initially conducted internal historical research before appointing the external expert Prof. Dr. Christopher Kopper to examine in an independent study the Company’s role during the Brazilian military regime from 1964 to 1985. The research was based on documents from Volkswagen AG’s corporate archive in Wolfsburg, Germany, and the corporate archive of Volkswagen do Brasil. During his research activities in São Paulo Professor Kopper also visited Brazilian state archives and interviewed contemporary witnesses.

In light of the scientific evaluation of the available sources, Professor Kopper concludes in his independent scientific study that “there was cooperation between individuals of site security at Volkswagen do Brasil and the former military regime. But there is also no clear evidence found, that the cooperation was institutionalized by the company.” Kopper also states that corporate and cultural change came in 1979 and the early 1980s when Volkswagen do Brasil became a pioneer of co-determination in Brazil by setting up a Works Council. The first secret ballot to elect a Works Council was held in Brazil in 1982, thereby ending discrimination against union members.

Learning from the past

In order to reinforce its support to the Human Rights, a plaque in memory of the victims of the military regime will be jointly unveiled at the São Bernardo do Campo facility. This moment also marks the starting point of the cooperation with social and human rights organizations.

The first one that Volkswagen is announcing is the Afro-Brazilian Cultural Center Francisco Solano Trindade, supporting a local project for children and teenagers run by the international children’s rights organization Terre des Hommes. Further cooperation is being evaluated.

"Volkswagen has an historic and emotional connection with Brazil and the Brazilians. A long-term commitment, with 65 years of actuation in the country. With this action, the company reassures its commitment to the country, strengthen its values in favor of the human rights and social responsibility", asserts Pablo Di Si, president and CEO of Volkswagen South America Region and Brazil.

The findings of the research study will also be used in Germany. Future corporate history publications will include the history of Volkswagen in Brazil and the subject will be given appropriate coverage in the Company’s vocational training and further development programs.

To download the study “VW do Brasil in the Brazilian Military Dictatorship 1964-1985: A Historical Study“ please go to: www.volkswagenag.com/de/group/history.html

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