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Panera Owner Tries to Atone for Family’s Nazi Past

When Germany’s second-richest family hired a historian to investigate its past, they suspected that they didn’t know the full story of their father and grandfather’s activities during World War II. But the findings were still a shock to the Reimanns, whose JAB Holding Co. owns major coffee brands including Panera, Keurig and Krispy Kreme.

German tabloid Bild Am Sonntag revealed Sunday that Albert Reimann Sr., who died in 1954, and Albert Reimann Jr., who died in 1984, were committed Nazis, not just political opportunists.

Researchers found documents showing that the Reimanns exploited Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced laborers in the family’s factories and private homes. Reimann Sr. also made donations to Hitler’s paramilitary SS force as early as 1931, and Reimann Jr. once complained in a letter to the mayor of Ludwigshafen that French prisoners of war weren’t working hard enough.

“It is all correct,” said family spokesman Peter Harf, one of two managing partners of JAB Holdings. “Reimann Senior and Reimann Junior were guilty. The two men have passed away, but they actually belonged in prison.”

Harf says the family plans to release the full report next year after it is completed. As soon as the preliminary findings were revealed, the Reimanns pledged €10 million ($11 million) to an unspecified charity.

That, however, is just pocket change to the Reimanns: German media estimates the family’s total wealth at €33 billion. Five family members—Wolfgang Reimann, Renate Reimann-Haas, Stefan Reimann-Andersen, Matthias Reimann-Andersen and Andrea Reimann-Ciardelli—also have a combined worth of least $10 billion, according to Bloomberg.

JAB Holding is an independently operated engine for the Reimann family, whose wealth comes from a chemical company that became Reckitt Benckiser, a $58 billion consumer products giant whose brands include Lysol, the New York Times reports.

JAB Holding might not be a household name, but you’re sure to know its subsidiaries. Since 2012, JAB has been snapping up retail and packaged coffee brands including Pret a Manger, Panera, Keurig, Peet’s Coffee and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

The firm released its 2018 financial results just this week, which showed a value decline of nearly €1 billion, largely due to the company’s stake in Coty, which has seen a dramatic drop in its share price, Handelsblatt reports. Despite this, JAB’s assets still total more than €15 billion.

Reuters reported in February that JAB would like to do an IPO for its coffee-focused Acorn Holdings division—which is the holding company of Keurig Dr Pepper, Jacobs Douwe Egberts and Peet’s Coffee—in the next two years.