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Image: picture alliance/dpa/K.-J. Hildenbrand

Volkswagen calls for delay of US trial over Nazi jab

February 3, 2018

The US unit of Volkswagen has called for the Dieselgate trials to be delayed, after a plaintiffs' lawyer linked the firm with the Holocaust. The lawyer, Michael Melkersen, made the comments in a Netflix documentary.


Representatives of Volkswagen's US subsidiary asked a Virginia court for a delay of a minimum of six months before proceeding with lawsuits over forged emissions tests. The reason, according to the carmaker, is an "inflammatory" statement by the car buyers' lawyer in the new Netflix documentary series "Dirty Money."

The opening episode of "Dirty Money" deals with the Volkswagen emissions scandal. In it, lawyer Michael Melkersen comments on recent revelations about Volkswagen's animal testing, specifically on exposing monkeys to diesel fumes.

Read more: Car diesel fume experiments on humans 'widespread,' scientist say

"One cannot help but think back throughout history of another series of events involving individuals being gassed by a person who was actually at the opening of the very first Volkswagen factory," Melkersen says in the documentary, just before a picture of Adolf Hitler appears on the screen.

The statement refers to the support the Nazi regime provided the company in Volkswagen's early days.

Adolf Hitler admires a model of a Volkswagen car
In the first years of his reign, Hitler tasked carmakers with developing an affordable passenger carImage: Getty Images/Hoffmann

In their legal filing, Volkswagen's representatives claim that "pre-trial publicity has connected [the German-based company] directly with Hitler and the Holocaust," which could make juries biased and prevent a fair trial.

Fraud trials starting soon

Volkswagen has been facing a PR and legal nightmare since the Dieselgate scandal first broke in 2015, showing that the company deliberately manipulated emissions tests to make their cars appear less harmful for the environment.

Read more: Volkswagen likely spared billions as US judge rejects state Dieselgate lawsuit

The company has since been forced to spend some $25 billion (over €20 billion) to pay for claims for car owners, regulatory bodies, state authorities, and dealers. Most of the Volkswagen customers agreed to take a settlement in 2016. Others, however, decided to sue the company.

Read more: VW executive Oliver Schmidt sentenced to seven years in jail over Dieselgate

One of them, a Volkswagen Jetta owner represented by Melkersen, is set to bring his case to court on February 26. The plaintiff demands $725,000 from the US branch of the company.

Two other such trials are also set to start in the coming months, with Melkersen representing more than 300 people.

It was not immediately clear when the Virginia court would respond to the request of Volkswagen's lawyers.

Commenting on Volkswagen's request, Melkersen told the Reuters news agency that the filing was "hogwash."

"This is another tactic to postpone their day of reckoning," he said.

dj/ng (Reuters, dpa)

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