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Hugo Boss fashion house acknowledges it made Nazi uniforms

August 15, 1997 GMT

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Hugo Boss gained attention by producing classic men’s suits, but spent its early years making uniforms for storm troopers and other Nazis, a company spokeswoman acknowledged Thursday.

Hugo Boss AG, like numerous German companies before it, has been forced to confront its activities during the Nazi era.

Officials said Thursday that they weren’t aware of their company’s links to the Nazis until founder Hugo Boss’ name appeared on a list of dormant accounts released by Swiss bankers last month.

``Right now we are trying to get a handle on the situation,″ Boss spokeswoman Monika Steilen said. ``This is a very new theme for us. We have nothing in our archives.″

Steilen said the company has not yet determined what kind of account Boss might have had in Switzerland.

Steilen said Hugo Boss AG was considering hiring a historian to look into its past _ something that others, including the Allianz insurance company and the German railroad, already have done or are doing.

Hugo Boss founded the textile factory in 1923 as a small family-run business that manufactured police and postal uniforms, Steilen said. He joined the Nazi party in 1931, and two years later, began manufacturing Nazi uniforms.

``Of course my father belonged to the Nazi Party,″ Siegfried Boss, 83, told the Austrian news weekly Profil in the latest issue. ``But who didn’t belong back then? The whole industry worked for the Nazi army.″

The Nazis awarded contracts to thousands of companies to produce its notorious black uniforms, worn by SS units, the brown shirts worn by SA storm troopers and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth, according to Eckhard Trox, a military uniform expert at the Luedenscheid museum in northwestern Germany.

Production continued throughout the war, and according to Profil, Boss brought forced laborers from Poland and France to his factory to boost output in the later years.

Boss died in 1948, and the factory returned to making uniforms for postal and police workers. It produced its first men’s suits in the 1950s, but didn’t focus exclusively on men’s fashion until the early 1970s when Boss’s nephews, Uwe and Jochen Holy, took over the business.

A majority of the company stock was was sold to the Italian group Marzotto in 1993.