VW supervisory board criticizes CEO remark evoking Nazi slogan

The entry gate to Auschwitz with the slogan

But the phrase echoed the infamous slogan on the main gate of the Auschwitz death camp "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free").

EBIT is an acronym for Earnings Before Interest and Tax, a key indicator of a company's profit.

The Volkswagen executive said: "It was a very unfortunate choice of words and if if I accidentally hurt feelings with it, I am extremely sorry. I would like to apologize unreservedly".

Herbert Diess, CEO of German automaker Volkswagen AG, speaks at the company's annual press conference at Volkswagen headquarters on March 12, 2019 in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The expression "Ebit macht frei" was made in an internal management presentation in connection with operating margins from various company brands, Diess said.

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Diess apologized, explaining he was trying to make the point that VW's more profitable units had more financial freedom.

"At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context", Diess said in the statement. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 to mass-produce a low-cost vehicle, and was originally operated by the German Labour Front, a Nazi organization, according to Britannica.com.

Volkswagen was founded by the German Labour Front under Nazi rule in the 1930s and eventually admitted to using 15,000 slave workers during World War II. Volkswagen is betting its future on electric cars He said his comments were meant to highlight Volkswagen's strong profits, not cause offense. The CEO's comments were first reported by German news outlets.

Volkswagen's CEO has apologised for the remarks.

"The history of the Volkswagen group and the resulting responsibility is an important part of its corporate identity", the supervisory board said in the statement. In a separate email to Business Insider, Volkswagen called the case "legally and factually flawed, and Volkswagen will contest it vigorously".

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