The Empty “Noble” Gesture of Hugo Boss


There is a popular misconception that Hugo Boss was the designer of the SS uniforms. Instead, artist and Senior SS Officer Karl Diebitsch cooperated with graphic designer Walter Heck to design the uniforms, which revolved around an older uniform design with few alterations.


However, it was Hugo Boss, who received the lucrative order to produce the uniforms. He had been a member of the Nazi party since 1931. By 1933, he could factually advertise that he made clothes—not only for the SS—but also for the Hitler Youth and the SA. His relationship with the Nazis made him a very wealthy man.

During the war, it was difficult for companies to find employees. and Hugo Boss made the decision to use forced labour. The company had approximately 140 Polish and 40 French forced labourers. Even though Boss’ factory wasn’t part of a concentration camp, his labourers were not considered  prisoners, but the conditions were dreadful.


It would have been relatively easy and cheap for Hugo Boss to make life for his workers more bearable, but he chose not to. The food was insufficient, given the hours they had to work. During air raids, the workforce was not allowed into shelters but had to stay in the factory. Also, there were no special treatments offered to children and pregnant women.

The most poignant story that indicates how desperate the workers felt is that of  Josefa Gisterek, a Polish woman. She was sent to work at Boss in October 1941. In December, she ran back home to give her father a helping hand to raise her siblings, but she was captured by the Gestapo and transported to Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald, where they beat her.

Hugo Boss found out where she was and used his contacts in the Nazi party to have her returned to Metzingen. Why he did this is unclear, maybe he felt he had some responsibility for his workforce, but I doubt that.

When Josefa returned, the factory foreman worked her mercilessly, which resulted in a breakdown.

After that, Josefa was given a three-month leave and allowed to see a doctor. However, on 5 July 1943, she committed suicide. Hugo Boss probably felt some guilt. He paid the funeral expenses and travel costs for her family to attend.


Although this might have appeared to be a noble gesture—had Hugo Boss treated his workforce more humanely, Josefa would not have fled in the first place.

Hugo Boss died after the war in 1948. His company went on to become one of the largest fashion houses in the world. To this day, it is still a multi-billion dollar company.

Hugo Boss died in 1948 but his company became one of the biggest fashion houses in the world and to this day is still a multi-billion dollar company.

That is something I cannot wrap my head around or comprehend. For example, if you examine the life of Oskar Schindler, you will find he died a poor man. All that remains of his company is a museum. But companies like Boss, VW, C&A and BMW, which participated in the atrocities during World War II—became mega companies. How is this even possible?


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Zwangsarbeit in Metzingen


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