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  6. 75th Anniversary: Volkswagen Remembers the Liberation of Auschwitz

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75th Anniversary: Volkswagen Remembers the Liberation of Auschwitz

Volkswagen Group Board Member for Human Resources Gunnar Kilian (left) and the Chairman of the General Works Council Bernd Osterloh lay a wreath at the memorial stone for the victims of forced labor, persecution and racial fanaticism during National Socialism.

Against the backdrop of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the Soviet Red Army 75-years ago, the Volkswagen Group commemorates the victims of forced labor, persecution and racial fanaticism during the period of National Socialism, with a minute’s silence and wreath-laying ceremony in front of the memorial stone at the Wolfsburg plant on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2020.

“Volkswagen and the International Auschwitz Committee have enjoyed a unique collaboration for 32-years. We want to keep the memory of the atrocities and suffering alive. That is why the preservation and care of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial is extremely important to us. After all, people should continue to see what Auschwitz was like in the future,” said Volkswagen Group Board Member for Human Resources, Gunnar Kilian.

This will be followed by the exhibition “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Photographs and Poems on the Shoah” by Karl Teille.

  • BIOGRAPHY KARL TEILLE

    Karl Teille is Head of the Institute of Computer Science at Volkswagen Group’s AutoUni in Wolfsburg. He studied computer science in Braunschweig and was subsequently a PhD student in Munich. Teille completed his doctorate at the Technical University in Braunschweig.

    For ten years he worked in the management at Volkswagen Financial Services AG, including as Basel II Project Manager and CIO in Mexico.

    His professional focus is on digitalization technologies and the resulting social change, concepts of software development and project management. Teille was Architect and Project Manager of Volkswagen’s Faculty 73.

Karl Teille is head of the Institute of Computer Science at the Wolfsburg AutoUni

“The history of Volkswagen is inextricably linked with National Socialism. We are therefore very aware of our responsibility,” says Dieter Landenberger, Head of Heritage at the Volkswagen Group. “The exhibition shows how remembrance work is lived out at Volkswagen as part of the corporate culture.” For Karl Teille, the photography project was a very personal challenge away from his duties as a manager in the Group. “Photography has inspired me all my life. Working in a company where it is possible to get socially involved in this form fills me with gratitude.”

When he heard about the construction of a large Holocaust memorial in Berlin in the early 2000s, Teille was quickly enthusiastic about the location and concept after initial skepticism. “At first, I had reservations about the designs of the architect Peter Eisenman, because the idea looked to me like a cemetery with gravestones. But when I visited the memorial for the first time in Berlin, I was quickly fascinated by the impact and atmosphere.”

For ten years afterwards, Teille returned to the memorial site many times, observing how the place was constantly changing at different times of the year, in different weather conditions, and in light and shade, and how it provided new insights and sensations. The result was a photo book with one hundred photographs, thirteen of which can be seen in the exhibition at the Corporate Archive in Wolfsburg.

National Socialism wanted to destroy not only certain groups of people, but also their memories. Teille therefore juxtaposes his selected photographs with poems by Holocaust victims and survivors from the period, which he discovered in the libraries of the memorials of former concentration camps, among other places.

“Similar to the poems, in which it was important for me to highlight individuals with their individual fates, my own individual and self-determined photographs are intended to have an impact on the audience.”

For Teille, however, the pictures are not only remembrance work, but also an important political statement against racism and right-wing extremism in Germany. For those who do not know the past run the risk of it repeating itself, he says. That is why Teille is also committed to more tolerance and diversity in refugee work.

Against the background of the dark chapter in the company’s history with 20,000 forced laborers, including 5,000 concentration camp prisoners who also came from Auschwitz to the factory on the Mittellandkanal, the Volkswagen Group will continue to campaign vehemently against racism and for more tolerance and diversity in society.

The exhibition can be viewed by appointment at history@volkswagen.de until April 30, 2020.