Commissioning an Independent Study into the Nazi History of Hertie

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The wealth of the Hertie Foundation originates from the department store chain “Hermann Tietz” (the name of which was later changed to “Hertie”). In the 1930s, the Nazis forced the Tietz family out of their company through a series of antisemitic repressions. Without this antisemitic Nazi crime, the Hertie Foundation would not exist today. Prior to recent public pressure, the Foundation has refused to significantly engage openly and proactively with its history, as it would be standard in Germany.

The Her.Tietz Initiative is made up of students, alumni of the Hertie School and members of three other institutions funded by the Hertie Foundation, who demand an open and transparent handling of this history. We welcome the Foundation’s recent first public commitment to commission a study into Hertie’s Nazi past, 24 hours after an article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

We believe that an honest and unbiased look into Hertie’s Nazi past can only be guaranteed if the study adheres to high scientific standards. Why? There are already two pre-studies from 2000 and 2008 that the Hertie Foundation refuses to publish. We’d like to make sure the same won’t happen with this new study. Hence, we have developed the following list of criteria with the help of experts that is the baseline for the design of an independent high-quality scientific study:

  1. The creation of a balanced commission consisting of 3-5 historians with at least one non-German member - to guarantee an unbiased commission and to include an international perspective
  2. The commission must include a historian with a focus on Holocaust studies it is not sufficient to see the “aryanization” only from the perspective of economic history, but also in light of the Holocaust
  3. The Hertie Foundation must provide a written, legally valid and public guarantee of non-interference and of access to all available sourcesguaranteeing that interference will not happen
  4. The Hertie Foundation will waive any requirements of interim reports before the full publication of the resultsinterim reports would offer opportunities for interference
  5. The Hertie Foundation will publicly guarantee the commission’s funding, with a legally binding commitment that the historians will be free to develop and decide on the rules of procedurefinancial independence is crucial to avoid the possibility to exert financial pressure
  6. A clear and transparent timeline that is communicated publicly, including the start and end date of the research – strong commitments need to be verifiable
  7. A focus of the research needs to be on the "aryanization" of the Hermann Tietz department stores, including the restitution process - the “aryanization” needs to be covered extensively, because this is the most disputed part of Hertie’s history
  8. The Hertie Foundation will officially invite the Tietz family, more precisely the direct descendants of the Tietz family members who were active as managing directors and shareholders at the time of the "aryanization" to contribute sourceswith the aim of gaining additional sources.

In addition, we demand the Hertie Foundation release the two already existing pre-studies. The pre-studies offer valuable insights, for example regarding available sources, as confirmed by the Hertie Foundation’s press release from 17th of October 2020. Incompleteness is not an argument against publication, but a normal characteristic of scientific research and, indeed, it facilitates further investigation.

By committing to an independent and public study adhering to the outlined criteria and by publishing the existing pre-studies immediately, the Hertie Foundation can signal an immediate change in behaviour and a strong public commitment.

Support this initiative by signing our petition and demanding the Hertie Foundation to commit for an active and open approach regarding Hertie’s Nazi history.

The team of the Her.Tietz Initiative