In July 2019, Bahlsen hired Professor Dr. Manfred Grieger to independently investigate into the company's role during the Nazi dictatorship. The first interim results are now available (June 2020). As soon as the scientific research of the team of authors expanded to include Prof. Dr. Hartwig Berghoff and Dr. Karin Hartewig is complete, Bahlsen will make the results of the investigation, which will also include the prehistory up to the First World War and the aftermath up to the 1970s, available to the public.
"It's good to see that Bahlsen does not only clarify the events during the National Socialist dictatorship, but also its prehistory since the First World War and its aftermath scientifically. The study offers the opportunity to draw a critical and differentiated picture of Germany between war, dictatorship and consumer democracy in the focus of an exemplary corporate and family history."
- Prof. Dr. Manfred Grieger
Bahlsen as a medium-sized company in the food industry was neither economically nor politically on the front line under the Nazi regime. Nevertheless, the company did profit from the economic opportunities offered by National Socialism. While the Bahlsen brothers were not top representatives of the NSDAP (Nazi party), they were party members and in regular contact with NSDAP officials.
By adapting its product policy and marketing, Bahlsen profited from the economic upswing that began during the establishment phase of the National Socialist regime. This continued into the war, when the Wehrmacht became a major customer. The war economy system offered large numbers of unfree workers to replace, for example, German workers who had been called up, and the company accessed these workers. From the end of May 1940 until the end of the Second World War, over 700 forced labourers from various European countries, most of them women from Poland and the Ukraine, came to the factory in Hanover. These people had to live in company-owned camps and were disadvantaged in accordance with the racist hierarchy. Bahlsen also used forced laborers in the branch factory in Gera, which was set up in June 1943.
After the German occupation of the Ukraine, Bahlsen took over the administration of a large biscuit factory in Kiev on 1 March 1942. Work was compulsory there, so that in November 1942, in addition to ten Bahlsen employees from Germany, more than 2,150 men and women were deployed. By September 1943, when the Red Army recaptured the city, the local branch office had a turnover of almost 11 million Reichsmarks in supplying the Wehrmacht.
In 1943, material shortages put an end to Bahlsen's increasing growth until then, although a new business field developed with the emergency supply of "bomb victims". After the end of the Nazi dictatorship, the company quickly received a production permit as an indispensable food producer and regained its role and importance. Bahlsen took advantage of the market conditions that arose after the currency reform in 1948, as well as the emerging consumer society as a whole, to achieve considerable corporate growth. After the denazification of the owners, Bahlsen gained opportunities for extensive political and economic influence, at the latest when Werner Bahlsen returned to politics in 1957.