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Investigation into VW under Brazilian military rule to begin

November 3, 2016

Volkswagen will have a historian look through their practices in Brazil during the South American country’s military dictatorship. The process is expected to take one year.

Polen Eröffnung des Crafter Werkes in Posen
Image: DW/A.-M. Pędziwol

Following allegations of allowing torture during the Brazilian military dictatorship, the German automaker has hired a historian to investigate VW's actions in the South American country.

VW faces accusations they collaborated with the military regime and drafted blacklists of employees who did not support the Brazilian government. Former employees filed a civil lawsuit in Brazil last year that claimed 12 workers were arrested and tortured in a VW factory near Sao Paulo, and dozens were placed on a blacklist.

Professor Christopher Kopper of Bielefeld University in Germany will work on the investigation "to clarify the group's role during the military dictatorship in Brazil," said Volkswagen in a statement on Thursday. Kopper will start as soon as possible, and the results will be made public, according to VW.

"We want to shed light on the dark years of military dictatorship and explain the behavior of those responsible at that time in Brazil and, if applicable, Germany," said VW board member Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt.

Brazil's military regime ruled between 1964 and 1985. Volkswagen laid the foundation for its first Brazilian plant in 1957, and it became a primary hub for the production of their famous Beetle model, known as the Fusca in Brazil. More than 3 million units were produced in Brazil before production on the Fusca ended in 1986. The Gol (a family car with DNA borrowed from the Passat and the Golf) became the best-selling vehicle in Brazil, with more than 7 million units produced.

New historian

Thursday's announcement comes on the heels of the sudden departure of VW's longtime historian, Manfred Grieger, in October. Grieger's work looked into VW's actions during Nazi Germany. Grieger left after he criticized a study on VW's Audi subsidiary which he believed downplayed their links to Nazis.

VW denied reports that Grieger was forced out. "We are surprised by these assumptions. They are not based on anything," said VW in a statement.

kbd/msh (AFP, AP)