Continental was the world’s biggest producer of rubber materials at the time, making it a key supplier to German industry during the period covering the Holocaust and World War II.
Historian Paul Erker dubs the company “practically the backbone of the National Socialist armaments and war industry” in his report, commissioned by Continental itself and seen by weekly Der Spiegel.
Bosses asked Erker to research exactly how closely it collaborated with the Nazis while they were in power.
He discovered that Continental used around 10,000 forced labourers in its factories, many of them political prisoners.
Nor did the company shrink from abusing concentration camp inmates.
One of Continental’s major products in the 1930s and 40s was rubber soles for shoes, making it a vital supplier to the army.
It asked for help testing the soles from Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, where prisoners were forced to march 30 to 40 kilometres (19-25 miles) per day in laps around the central courtyard with its looming gallows.
Any participants who weakened and fell to the ground were executed by the SS guards, Erker discovered.
Continental’s rubber specialists even ordered forced marches on snow and ice, and some of the prisoners tested the shoes for up to 2,200 kilometres.
“When they die, there’ll always be more,” contemporary Continental director Hans Odenwald said of Russian forced labourers, Erker reported. (AFP)