Who we are

Uniting leaders to scale innovative solutions


About BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt

Building a better future through a strong and innovative economy

How We Work

The BMW Foundation brings together the brightest minds and most influential people to foster an innovative economy that strengthens social cohesion and democracy. At our core, we are change-makers, focusing on innovation and alliances for action to create lasting, positive change. 


Our Origins

Herbert Quandt

Our Namesake

Historical Review
In 2007, the Quandt family asked the Bonn-based historian Professor Joachim Scholtyseck to conduct a study of the family’s history from its beginnings in the 19th century until 1954. During his three-year research work, he was given unrestricted access to the family and company archives. His account, entitled Der Aufstieg der Quandts: Einedeutsche Unternehmerdynastie (The rise of the Quandts: A German entrepreneurial dynasty), was published in 2011. The records and documents he used remain accessible to the public; they are stored in the Hessian Economic Archive to ensure the greatest possible transparency.

The impetus for this academic reappraisal came in the fall of 2007 from the TV documentary Das Schweigen der Quandts (The silence of the Quandts) which examined the role of the entrepreneurial family — especially that of Günther Quandt, Herbert Quandt’s father — during the National Socialist era.

In his account, contemporary historian Scholtyseck characterizes Günther Quandt as an entrepreneur who showed few scruples and much opportunism in asserting his interests. He built the bulk of his fortune during the inflation years after the First World War. Even before the National Socialists came to power, Günther Quandt’s industrial enterprises were thriving.

Later, companies of the Quandt Group profited from the armaments boom of the Nazi era as suppliers to the Wehrmacht. Günther Quandt also participated in so-called Aryanizations, i.e., the seizure of Jewish-owned companies, which he used to expand his group.
Biography of Herbert Quandt Herbert Quandt was born on June 22, 1910, as the second son of Günther Quandt and his wife Antonie in the Brandenburg town of Pritzwalk. In the early 1930s, he gained experience abroad and acquired technological and commercial knowledge, especially in the development and production of accumulators. Towards the late 1930s, he was given more and more managerial responsibilities within the Quandt Group. According to the historian Scholtyseck, Herbert Quandt therefore must have been informed about the kind, scope, and conditions of forced labor, as well as about the Aryanizations of companies.

During the war, companies such as the Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabrik (DWM) and the Akkumulatoren-Fabrik AG (AFA, from 1962 onwards called Varta) used tens of thousands of forced laborers, and later also concentration camp prisoners, who worked under life-threatening conditions. The supply situation was poor, many did not receive enough food, and in the AFA battery factory workers were not protected against toxic lead. Many forced laborers fell ill and did not survive these cruel conditions. As personnel manager, Herbert Quandt, who joined the NSDAP in 1940, was aware of the conditions in the factories.

It is estimated that in the German Reich more than 13 million people were used as forced laborers between 1939 and 1945. During this period, forced labor was almost ubiquitous within the German industry, including at BMW AG. Starting in December 1936, prisoners of war, convicts, forced laborers, and concentration camp inmates were employed in production without moral scruples. During the Nazi era, BMW transformedfrom a mobility company into an arms manufacturer, becoming one of the most important suppliers to the German war economy.
Herbert Quandt, Rolf Draeger, and Eberhard von Kuenheim.
Herbert Quandt, Rolf Draeger, and Eberhard von Kuenheim.
From left to right: Herbert Quandt, Rolf Draeger and Eberhard von Kuenheim at the opening of the BMW Museum in 1973.
Herbert Quandt speaks at the General meeting in 1978.
Herbert and Johanna Quandt on a plant tour at the official opening of the BMW plant in Dingolfing.
In 1970, on the occasion of Herbert Quandt’s 60th birthday, BMW AG founded the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt to honor the entrepreneur’s achievements in rescuing and restructuring the automotive group. Herbert Quandt had begun acquiring shares in the Bavarian automaker in the 1950s.

He demonstrated courage and foresight when he bought the majority of shares of the Bayerische Motorenwerke AG in 1959, thus preventing Daimler-Benz AG from taking over the company. Through his great personal commitment, combined with the risk of a total financial loss, he secured BMW’s independence and laid the foundation for the company’s successful development.

In the post-war period, Herbert Quandt’s work was characterized by his commitment to the new social market economy and responsible entrepreneurship. In his view, an entrepreneur should be seen in society as a person whose actions make an important social contribution beyond economic benefits.

Since the late 1990s, BMW has been a founding member of the “Stiftung EVZ – Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft” (EVZ Foundation – Remembrance, Responsibility, Future), a foundation initiative of German industry, which has paid a total of 5.2 billion euros in compensation to forced laborers and invests in future projects to keep alive for future generations the memory of the injustice inflicted on them.
Our Mandate The Quandt family has participated in the foundation initiative through other companies and also supports the Nazi Forced Labor Documentation center in Berlin-Schöneweide (on the former site of the Pertrix battery factory), where members of the family personally met with former forced laborers. In addition, the family supports Jewish organizations through donations.

To mark its centenary in 2016, the BMW Group strengthened its philanthropic commitment and doubled the BMW Stiftung’s assets from 50 to 100 million euros. Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten provided additional support of 30 million euros to the Foundation. The two corporate foundations of the BMW Group, the Eberhard von Kuenheim Stiftung and the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt, consolidated to pool their strengths and resources and to accelerate their mission of “Inspiring Responsible Leadership.” They now operate jointly under the name of BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. This organizational and strategic realignment has enabled the Foundation to expand its activities both globally and thematically and to significantly strengthen its impact.
As the history of the Nazi regime and Herbert Quandt's role in it were being analyzed, the Foundation considered the question of whether the name was still appropriate. The Foundation's Board of Trustees and Board of Directors considered this matter intensively and came to the conclusion that the name BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt should be retained in order to preserve the historical context and emphasize the entrepreneurial aspect of the naming at the time.

The BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt derives a clear mandate for its social commitment from its past while also looking towards the future: The Foundation globally advocates for a free, democratic, and just society without discrimination. It brings together leaders and experts in its global Responsible Leaders Network, which is characterized by diversity and the joy of collaboration to drive positive change. Together, we transcend borders, cultures, and systems to advocate for innovations and sustainable changes that pave the way for innovative economies and resilient democracies. These efforts serve as the foundation for a fairer and more livable future.