WTF Friday 9/13/13: Hugo Boss’s Nazism, Daily Mail’s Apologism

Apparently GQ kicked Russell Brand out of its Man of the Year party (at which he received the “Oracle Award,” a fact that you will soon discover adds a frisson of irony to the outcome of the evening) for speaking the truth (wow, that irony came sooner than expected) about the Nazi past of Hugo Boss, founder of the eponymous clothing company that had sponsored the GQ party.

Brand, in his acceptance speech, noted what an honor it was to take the stage at an event hosted by Hugo Boss, because:

“Many of you who’ll know a little bit about history and fashion know that Hugo Boss made the uniforms for the Nazis. And the Nazis did have flaws, but you know – they did look fucking fantastic, let’s face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality.”

GQ apparently didn’t appreciate Brand making fun of its main sponsor:

Now, before I get to the main point of this post, which is making fun of the Daily Mail, I would like to point out that if you are Hugo Boss (the company), and you were founded by Hugo Boss (the Nazi war profiteer), and owe your initial success to the profits you made from manufacturing Nazi uniforms with the aid of wartime slave labor, then being laughed at by Russell Brand at a GQ awards party because you are still a successful corporation decades later is, in every way, a better outcome than you could ever have hoped for.

In fact, I am fairly certain that if you are a company that owed its early success to being all kinds of Nazi-ed up, and you have been allowed to remain a profitable member of polite society, the rule is that everyone everywhere can make fun of your Nazi past forever, even during parties you’ve sponsored, and not only do you have to accept that unflinchingly, you have to laugh at the jokes, even if they are terrible. For instance:

Q. What has two thumbs and a Nazi Party Membership number of 508,889?
A. Hugo Boss!

Like that.

Which brings me to my next point: the Daily Mail’s response to Brand’s statements was extremely weird, even for the Daily Mail, which is really saying something.

According to this piece by Guy Walters, Russell Brand’s statements provided the perfect opportunity to “set the record straight” about Hugo Boss’s involvement with the Nazis. And by “setting the record straight,” he means “knocking down a bunch of straw-man arguments in a way that sure looks weirdly similar to defending Hugo Boss’s Nazi activities.” See, Walters wants us to know that “[u]ltimately, Boss was not an evil man, but he did not do enough to stop evil happening.” For instance:

  1. “Myth one” is apparently that Hugo Boss designed the Nazis’ uniforms. In fact, Walters feels we should know, Boss “simply manufactured them” based on designs from two other dudes in order to make tons of money. (Let me guess…he was just following orders?)
  2. Boss thought that the “growing Nazi party” was “just a good client” in the 1920s. (Did he happen to notice that his “good client” had recently attempted to overthrow the government in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923?)
  3. Boss was “not a rabid Nazi,” he was “simply a pragmatist” who joined the party (1) in order to profit from doing business with it, and (2) because he “believed that Hitler was the only man who could lift Germany out of its economic doldrums.” (I get that. I’m pragmatic too. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that leads me to join a fascist party and outfit its campaign of genocide and aggressive war.)
  4. The forced labor was strictly a personnel issue: “Boss found it hard to find employees during the war,” so “the company found itself employing forced workers from the occupied countries.” (I love the passivity of “found itself.” As if perhaps Hugo Boss woke up after a week-long bender and discovered that he’d kidnapped and enslaved nearly two hundred people. Yikes, bro, hate it when that happens.)
  5. Boss’s factory was “not a concentration camp” and his workers “were not prisoners.” (I don’t even know what this is supposed to mean. Walters goes on to describe workers who were rounded up by the Gestapo, taken to a factory and forced to work and live there against their will in horrible conditions. That’s “not a prisoner”?)
  6. After one of his workers – who had previously escaped and been caught by the Gestapo and returned to the factory after a stint in Auschwitz – was mistreated by his factory foreman until she committed suicide, Boss paid for her family to attend her funeral. Such a mensch, amirite? (Walters does note that it “would have been more decent and caring for Boss to have ensured his forced labourers were treated more humanely in the first place.” Agreed.)

So, there we have it, folks: Hugo Boss was a Nazi who enslaved civilians for profit, but not the bad kind.

(H/T to @KevinJonHeller for the Daily Mail link.)

Amanda Taub


  1. Great job you’ve done there by addressing everything that’s wrong with this apologetic Daily Mail piece. It is sad to see how many people still belittle the Nazis’ atrocities, ideology and the involvement of millions without which the mass murder of the Holocaust could not have happened.

    While the current owners and management of BOSS are of course not to blame for what happened from the 1920s to 1945, they should be judged by how they deal with their past, what lessons they draw from it, whether they try to find the former slave labourers to compensate them, for example.

  2. You miss one significant point. The Daily Mail continues to be a prominent British newspaper. In the 1930s it supported Hitler, Mussolini, Oswald Moseley and the British Union of Fascists. So perhaps in criticising Brand it is just showing some loyalty to its past?

  3. Hugo Boss admitted and apologised for its past way, way, way back in 2011. Bringing up the past over and over again wouldn’t make what happened in the past any better. It wouldn’t even help those people affected by the tragedy move on and heal. This relentless need for revenge, even through continously humiliating those people we think participated in horrific events, is not going to make the world any better: Forgiveness is.

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