Volkswagen's troubles continue after its record-breaking $14.7 billion emissions-scandal settlement last week, with the controversy now swirling around a historian who helped uncover the company's Nazi past. The New York Times dives into the sudden end of Manfred Grieger's contract with VW, now being criticized for "disposing of an enlightener" by other historians, including 75 academics who penned an open letter railing against what they insinuate was Grieger's dismissal for historical whistleblowing. "Transparency in reacting to the public is not really the strength of VW," Hartmut Berghoff, the Georg-August University professor who spurred the letter in Grieger's defense, tells the Times. Both VW and Grieger are mum about the circumstances surrounding his abrupt departure, but the Times notes it seems to be tied to a 518-page 2014 study of the labor practices of VW subsidiary Audi.
Grieger reviewed that study last year and apparently didn't think it went far enough in exposing how VW had relied on forced labor from concentration camps for its factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, which produced weapons and military gear. A 1996 book co-authored by Grieger had already delved into those uncomfortable facts, as well as embarrassing info about the Porsche and Piech families, still majority VW stockholders. Both the study and review were mentioned in August in a German business journal, which then "led to talk that Grieger be put on a short leash and limited in his academic freedom," the historians' letter claims. Europe Online Magazine says a German paper reported Grieger's criticism had put him "in hot water with VW senior management," but a Tuesday VW statement denied Grieger had been dismissed and said VW "has examined its history as an enterprise consistently, honestly, and strongly, and will continue to do so," per the Times.