VW chief apologizes for evoking Nazi concentration camp slogan

The phrase "EBIT macht frei" was apparently not well received by everyone in attendance at a company event.

Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess has apologized for using a controversial slogan at a recent company event.

The executive said "EBIT macht frei," using a financial acronym for earnings before interest and taxes. The line roughly translates to "profit sets you free."

The wording is close to the Nazi phrase "Arbeit macht frei," which means "work sets you free." The slogan traces its roots to a late-1800s novel about reforming criminals through labor. It is most infamous for its placement above the entrance gate to several Nazi concentration camps, however, including Auschwitz and Dachau.

Volkswagen was founded by the German Labour Front under Nazi rule in the 1930s and eventually admitted to using 15,000 slave workers during World War II.

Diess quickly apologized and admitted that it was "definitely an unfortunate choice of words," and his employer has a "special responsibility in connection with the Third Reich," according to the BBC.

"At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context," he said. "At the time, I simply did not think of this possibility."

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