There is a popular misconception that Hugo Boss designed the SS uniforms. This is not true, the uniforms were designed by the artist and senior SS officer called Karl Diebitsch, in cooperation with a graphic designer called Walter Heck. The uniforms were based on older uniforms with a few alterations.
However it was Hugo Boss who got the lucrative order to produce the uniforms. He had been a member of the Nazi party since 1931.
By 1933, he could advertise the fact 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 to find employees so he decided to start using force labour, it is estimated that he used 140 Polish and 40 French forced laborers.
Even though Boss’s factory wasn’t part of a concentration camp,and his labourers were not considered prisoners, 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. And during air raids, the workforce was not allowed into shelters, but had to stay in the factory.There were no special treatments for children and pregnant women,
The most poignant story that indicates how desperate the workers felt is that of Josefa Gisterek, a Polish woman.Sho was sent to work at Boss in October 1941. In December, she ran away . 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 she was beaten.
Hugo Boss found out where she was, and he used his contacts in the Nazi party to get her returned to Metzingen. Why did 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 her getting a breakdown.
After that Josefa was given three months’ leave, and was allowed to see a doctor, but on 5 July 1943, she committed suicide.Boss who probably felt some guilt : he paid for the funeral expenses, and the travel costs for her family to attend.
Although this may appear to be some sort of a ‘noble’gesture, if Hugo Boss would have treated his workforce more humanely, Josefa would not have fled in the first place.
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.
This is something I just can’t understand, if you take for example Oskar Schindler, he died a poor man and all that remains of his company is a museum, whereas companies like Boss,VW,C&A and BMW who all had an active part in the atrocities during WWII have become mega companies, how is that even possible?
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Zwangsarbeit in Metzingen