By Rabbi Adam Roffman
I’ve had gourmet desserts in more restaurants (and even countries) than I can count. But there is nothing more decadent than a hot Krispy Kreme donut as it comes off the assembly line. When Krispy Kreme first opened in my hometown of Baltimore (where they had several kosher locations), there were lines around the block.
Last week, I learned that I might have to think twice, next time, before I decide to indulge in a warm original glazed.
Two years ago, Krispy Kreme, like Panera Bread, Peet’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Dr. Pepper and Snapple, was acquired by JAB Holdings. JAB is a German company, founded nearly two centuries ago. But as was the case for many German businesses that were around in the first part of the twentieth century, the company’s owners, the Reimann family, were avowed members of the Nazi party. They built their tremendous empire on the backs of Russian and French prisoners of war, who served as a slave labor force in their factories.
The current owners, descendants of the two men who ran the company during World War II, no doubt, knew of their forbear’s despicable past, even commissioning a study a couple of years ago on how deep the connection ran between the business and the Third Reich. Pretty deep, they discovered.
And yet, they chose to keep the conclusions of the study to themselves until they were exposed by a German tabloid newspaper. Once the study became public, the family confirmed its accuracy and pledged to give 10 million euros to as yet unnamed charity.
In the ’70 and ‘80s many German businesses were forced to admit their role in the crimes against the Jewish people committed by the Nazis. They paid reparations to Israel and to the families of survivors to atone for their sins. Perhaps that is why most Israeli taxis are German cars and many Israelis have moved to Berlin. The German government has undergone no small amount of soul searching in recent years to understand and atone for the atrocities of the Shoah. When I was in rabbinical school, several of my classmates went on an all-expense-paid trip to the Rhineland to dialogue with government officials and civilians, Germans who were committed to doing whatever they could to right the wrongs of the past.
It’s clear to me, when it comes to JAB Holdings, that’s not the case. Not only did they fail to disclose, unprompted, what they uncovered about their history, the amount of money they pledged to donate is insulting. As the humor site McSweeney’s wrote, this family that makes use of a Jewish sounding name to peddle their (mediocre) bagels and appropriates Yiddish slang like “schmear” to make their chain more “authentic,” decided that donating 0.0297% of their net worth was an appropriate gesture of apology. Shame on them.
I’ll admit it. I consume a lot of their products. Shira and I only buy Peet’s coffee, we love it. We go to Panera regularly for salads. And Einstein’s is the most ubiquitous bagel chain in town (and I have eaten more bagels than perhaps any other food item over the course of my life). Though the foreign company that owns these chains has made some unconscionable errors in judgement, I have no wish to pass that judgment onto to the hundreds of hard-working employees who earn their living serving carb-addicted Dallasites like me.
But JAB Holdings profaned the name of German industry through its actions during the war and they did so again last week. It’s our obligation to let them know that when it comes to asking the Jewish people for forgiveness, they have truly missed the mark. I encourage you to join me in writing to their Chairman at his overseas office to inform him that your rabbi says that he, his fellow owners, and his board of directors might want to take teshuva a little more seriously.
Mr. Peter Harf
CEO, JAB Holdings
Haarlem, 2031 CC
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