Can I buy a VW?
June 6, 2006 1:54 PM   Subscribe

In 2006, is it now OK for a Jew to buy a VW?
posted by toomuch to Religion & Philosophy (51 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, one of my Jewish friends owns a VW and loves it.
posted by dead_ at 1:58 PM on June 6, 2006

Heh, why do you feel that it would be unacceptable?
posted by aeighty at 2:01 PM on June 6, 2006

(Assuming you ask because of the Nazi link...)

Well, it's ok to buy a Chrysler, right (the Simpsons told me so)? The auto parts manufacturer (who makes parts for Chryslers) across the street from me is now owned by Thyssen Krupps, best known for their role in the SS war machine making tanks and heavy artillery. Oh, they also make parts for Mercedez and GM. Probably other cars too...

At least VW products didn't shoot anyone.

My suggestion: That was (likely) before you were born, and definitely before anyone running the company now was born. You probably typed your message in on an IBM PC clone of some kind. IBM was just as involved with the Nazis as well.
posted by shepd at 2:01 PM on June 6, 2006

Which model?
posted by Mr. Six at 2:02 PM on June 6, 2006

'"Would you buy an Italian car?" Yes. "What about clothes from Spain?" Yes. "Well then, your objection to buying German cars is strictly based on time. A succession of Roman Emperors tried to wipe out every Jew in the empire, and the Spanish had the Inquisition.'

Sometimes buying a car means burying the past.
posted by matthewr at 2:02 PM on June 6, 2006

Not according to my future mother-in-law, same goes for BMWs (yet her friends all drive Mercedes, go figure)
posted by leotrotsky at 2:03 PM on June 6, 2006

One Jewish columnist I read a while back (cant dig it up) agreed that it was bad and went on to conclude you shouldn't be driving any car at all, since they all use oil and that money leads back to the Middle East and to Islamic fundamentalist. You can take this as far as you want.
posted by vacapinta at 2:07 PM on June 6, 2006

It would be morally wrong to purchase goods and services from a person or a group of people that are trying to exterminate you.

If the people of Volkswagen are trying to exterminate you, you shouldn't buy their cars.
posted by cleverusername at 2:09 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't buy a Ford either.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:16 PM on June 6, 2006

I don't drink Coors, 'cause of their family history...I also hate the taste, but the former's much better story.
posted by black8 at 2:17 PM on June 6, 2006

Back in the early 80's my friend (Jewish) used to ride with me back and forth from Florida to NC. (Our art school was in Florida, our home towns in NC.) She always joked about my hitlermobile, but had no qualms whatsoever about riding in it. (Orange VW, symbol of my youth, how I miss thee!)
posted by konolia at 2:21 PM on June 6, 2006

I give you permission.

(Qualifications: raised heavy-duty Orthodox Jewish, family members were in Holocaust)

More seriously, though, the Germany and Germans of today are not the Germans of the past, and I hate it when people boycott German products because of what happened in the 30s and 40s. Cursory googling also reveals that VW has agreed to make reparation payments.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:31 PM on June 6, 2006

The time to hold companies responsible is during or right after they commit the act. The longer it goes the less of a concrete case can be made to punish the company. I, personally, would have had no trouble in the reconstruction phase the allies liquidating the assets of all companies that where in collusion with the Nazis. Nowadays... it is kind of like punishing the kids for the sins of the parents. Chronologically where that line is may be hard to establish, 60 years seems sufficient (as long as their practices have been legit during that time).
posted by edgeways at 2:31 PM on June 6, 2006

I think you waited too long. VW lost their vision when they turned away from the air-cooled engine, and the stuff they produce now is actively hostile to the shade-tree mechanic.

- Former beetle owner-operator who joined the dark side [Toyota] in 1991

posted by Rash at 2:48 PM on June 6, 2006

Nowadays... it is kind of like punishing the kids for the sins of the parents.

Indeed, and more like punishing grandkids for the sins of their grandparents...or even great-grandparents.

Secular Jew here...meh, it makes no difference. In buying a BMW, you are not supporting a Nazi war machine. Talk to some Germans your own age and ask them how they feel about Hitler...they'll roll their eyes that you're even asking. It's a different world now.
posted by bingo at 2:53 PM on June 6, 2006

While on a trip to Germany last year, a friend of mine said to me, "I feel blessed to be German, because I know that the terrible things that happened here 70 years ago will never happen again. The reason for that is that EVERYONE will be watching us to make sure it doesn't, and no other country can say that."

I'd like to think that my friend is the kind of person who is running the show at VW today. Buy your car with a clear conscience.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:58 PM on June 6, 2006

It has been more than 60 years since WWII and it is a safe bet that noone who has anything more than a faint childhood memory of the Hilter era has anything to do with the current manufacture, design, decision-making or major profit-making of VWs. Even retired executives would have been at most peons and cannon fodder in the Nazi war machine. You have waited long enough for the links to the evil past to break. Drive your VW.
posted by dness2 at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2006

VWs are overpriced crap cars that break down more then other German cars. So given widely held Jewish stereotypes I'd expect them to stay away.

If you want drive a vehicle with the lowest Nazi connection, I'd suggest a Chevy (Dodge/Chrysler is owned by the Germans, Henry Ford ♥ Hitler) or a Korean car like Kia or Hyndai, since the Japanese were allied with Hitler in WWII.

There are also some pretty slick British cars out there, although Mini is owned by BMW.
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on June 6, 2006

I can just give you an anecdote, not really tell you what to do. One of my close friends and mentors is the son of a Holocaust survivor. He just bought a VW for his mom and an Audi for himself. They're both OK with it.
posted by MeetMegan at 3:22 PM on June 6, 2006

You might also want to avoid cars with Mitsubishi engines. They made Japanese war planes.
posted by Kirklander at 3:29 PM on June 6, 2006

I asked my dad (a Conservative Jew) how he feels about this recently. He said many of the same things folks are saying here, and he added that on a recent trip to Israel he saw a ton of VWs on the road. Make of that what you will.
posted by amro at 3:31 PM on June 6, 2006

I think just about the only car you can buy with a clear conscience is a Saab, but then, you'd own a Saab, so that's no good. I would have recommended Skoda, but they were bought by VW.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2006

Perpetuating hate is directly counter to your cause.
posted by phrontist at 4:02 PM on June 6, 2006

In Israel the cabs and buses were largely Mercedes for many years. In the present relationship between Israel and Germany, Germany goes out of its way to respect and honor. For example, Markel recently made a visit to Yad Vashem in Israel which was positively perceived.

I can understand the ambivalence though. Its hard to separate the present from the past, especially if remembering is how you really honor those that died. I've met Germans which were total assholes, and then I've also overcome it and had a German girlfriend.. but still have some ambivalence. Two good movies about some of that ambivalence are "Walk on Water" and "Metallic Blues".
posted by blueyellow at 4:02 PM on June 6, 2006

How about a Subaru? Fuji Heavy Industries wasn't created until 1953, so you should be safe.
posted by electroboy at 4:13 PM on June 6, 2006

VWs are overpriced crap cars that break down more then other German cars.

My experience with my Jetta was otherwise. I loved the car and had no problems. It came with scheduled maintenance and the dealer was very attentive. I did trade it for an Audi and then another Audi. All great cars.

The VW/WWII thing did cross my mind when I bought my first VW but really, it is a different company than what was in WWII. And Germany is a different country.
posted by birdherder at 4:16 PM on June 6, 2006

You really only have one option, and that's an Ariel Atom. Even the name is Hebtastic.
posted by kcm at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2006

My good friend is Jewish. His mother owns a Mercedes, brother a BMW. I think you are in the clear.
posted by vaportrail at 4:25 PM on June 6, 2006

First, the statute of limitations has long since run. Reliability issues aside, I think you can buy a VW with a clear conscience as far as WWII issues are concerned. Besides, most of them are made in Mexico anyway.

There are also some pretty slick British cars out there, although Mini is owned by BMW.

Last I checked, the only British car out there is Morgan, and they're made of wood (!?)

Mini is owned by BMW. So is Rolls Royce. Bentley is owned by Volkswagen. Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover are owned by Ford. TVR is owned by some young Russian guy. Lotus is owned by a Malaysian company. MG is owned by a Chinese company.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:34 PM on June 6, 2006

Hmm. Hadn't thought about it before.

It depends on how you actually feel about VW. If you really hold their history against them, and aren't satisfied that they've done enough to make up for it, then no, you shouldn't buy a VW. If that's not the case, you should treat them like any other manufacturer.

Are you asking because you want to know the group consensus?

If so, personally, I think the people running it now shouldn't be held accountable for the company it was 60 years ago. I'd like the benefit of the doubt in a similar situation.
posted by Hildago at 4:35 PM on June 6, 2006

Oops. I forgot the Ariel Atom and Caterham. Yeah. Go with a Caterham 7. Way cooler than a VW, without any WWII baggage.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:35 PM on June 6, 2006

If it makes you feel better, buy a used one. That way the parent company doesn't make money off your purchase. (Although purists will point out that you are helping prop the resale value and thus providing the parent company a selling point, and lets not forget parts/service and my experience is you will need it with a VW). And you come across as being "thrifty."

I swore off VWs a couple cars ago, upon learning my '96 Jetta that I'd already dropped a new manual tranny into needed $1000 worth of "routine maintenance." Been a Honda driver ever since. I even know Koreans who drive Japanese cars, so forgiveness over WWII must be OK. Sonno Joi!
posted by ilsa at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2006

A subsidiary of DiamlerChrystler manufactures land mines. GM sells a car that gets single-digit gas mileage. As many as 14 top Toyota North America officials - including its CEO - have been suspended and may be forced to resign pending a sexual harassment lawsuit that alleges widespread and systemic sexual harassment.

I'd worry more about what companies are doing now.
posted by ChasFile at 5:33 PM on June 6, 2006

Sarah Silverman asks the same question - what's with Jews buying German cars?
posted by GuyZero at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2006

This is quite a dilemma. Not long ago a jewish friend mentioned that her husband (also jewish) wanted to buy a VW. She was dead set against. The fact that her grandmother had died in the holocaust was a factor. I think they were at a stalemate. It's a crazy mixed up world!
posted by bim at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2006

I am amazed that anyone could even ask this question in the year 2006. But if you had the courage to ask, then it must be said: BUY THE DAMN CAR! They're cool cars - what's not to love?
posted by davidmsc at 6:08 PM on June 6, 2006

I think just about the only car you can buy with a clear conscience is a Saab, but then, you'd own a Saab, so that's no good. I would have recommended Skoda, but they were bought by VW.

Saab is owned by GM now. Which is fine, but I don't see how you can you can't buy a car from a company like Kia which didn't even exist before the war. Of course then you'd be driving a Kia, but thats still better then a GM saab.
posted by delmoi at 6:10 PM on June 6, 2006

The fact of the matter is most Germany companies that were
around when the WWII happened were in some way involved in the war effort. You cannot single out just one company
and say there were involved in the war.

The same goes for other countries automotive industries.
posted by jacobean at 6:25 PM on June 6, 2006

This doesn't really fit here, but it almost does. So here goes.

My sister-in-law used to be a buyer for a large international upscale retail chain. She's Chinese, and she bought from Chinese suppliers. She said that the only way someone can operate a factory 'above board' there is to be partnered with, and part of, the local governmental structure. Because of this they have near slavery working conditions for the employees - the gov't that's supposed to enforce the laws profits from their misery, so there's misery aplenty. Its' that way throughout almost all of Asia, she says.

Ironically, it's the people who produce fakes who are the best employers, because they often have to operate under the radar, they have to compete for workers, and offer better working conditions, otherwise the workers will tattle and bring the house down.

So if you want to support oppressed Asian workers toiling in slave like conditions - buy counterfeit luxury goods at the lowest price you can.
posted by Jos Bleau at 6:33 PM on June 6, 2006

Think of it as reclaiming the brand. Just think of Hitler tossing in his grave as you, a liberated Jew, are alive and well, driving a symbol of pride in German engineering, while surviving Nazis are forced to hide from the law. I know dozens of Jews who drive Mercedes largely for this reason.

I'm not Jewish, but I have worked in both a synogogue and Jewish Museum, and there were plenty of VWs in the employee parking lot. I say this only to point out that there is a great diversity of opinion in the Jewish community.

I love VWs, and am on my third one. I had driven one for 10 years before the history was pointed out to me. I felt terrible. A friend whose father as well as his mother's parents had surrvived Auschwitz politely refused a ride with me. But when I looked into my conscience, my guilty German American conscience, I really do not feel like the car today is a symbol of Nazism, or a sign of forgetting the past. But I wouldn't fault anyone who did. I can't bring myself to buy gas from Shell, even though I realize other oil companies are only marginally better.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:11 PM on June 6, 2006

lol, cleverusername. And best answer (in my opinion) to boot.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:04 PM on June 6, 2006

Saab is owned by GM now.

OK, how about Honda! Founded in 1959. Not owned by any Nazi-collaborators. And Honda's are decent, affordable, reliable cars.

So there you go, the best answer. Buy a Honda.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:32 PM on June 6, 2006

So there you go, the best answer. Buy a Honda.


Honda is perhaps not accessory to genocide like VW or a landmine manufacturer like DaimlerChrystler or an obscenely callous polluter like GM or an institutional sexual oppressor like Toyota. Honda is, however, an organization comprised of some of the most shameless corporate theives you will ever find.

You want morality? Ride a bike. You're going to get some blood on your hands no matter what automaker you buy from.
posted by ChasFile at 8:47 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I would never drive a Ford, (especially now that I know that Henry Ford was notorious for his anti-semetic behavior). Neither he, nor his family, have ever attempted to apologize.

VW, yeah. Older generations don't understand. I would say the mid-50 and under crowd find it acceptable.
posted by 6:1 at 9:48 PM on June 6, 2006

Didn't Hitler drive a Rolls Royce? Maybe Jews should boycott them too.
I certainly do, and not just because I don't have $300,000
posted by joshuak at 12:27 AM on June 7, 2006

Honda is, however, an organization comprised of some of the most shameless corporate theives you will ever find.

Well who cares about that? I mean compared to land mines, genocide it hardly seems like a big deal, I mean once you pay for the car who cares what happens to the money?
posted by delmoi at 12:38 AM on June 7, 2006

I heard Philip Roth say something once, like "WW2 will be over for humanity the day a baby is innocently named Adolf".

Not quite an exact quote. Get us off on the right foot. Buy German.
posted by ewkpates at 3:54 AM on June 7, 2006

My Israeli Jew brother-in-law works at the only Porsche showroom in Israel. They love their cars, especially German ones.
posted by Blip at 5:29 AM on June 7, 2006

I boycott VW - not because I'm a Jew, but because my '03 Jetta was the most lemony lemon ever.
posted by pinky at 6:15 AM on June 7, 2006

What has been echoed a few times here. Boycott VWs because they have one of the most atrocious reliability ratings of any car. Ever. And their overpriced.

Pick up a Consumer Report, Car Buying Guide. Flip to the back, look at the relatively well made cars with decent reliability ratings for their subsystems (engine, fuel line, trim,etc), flip to VW, notice the SEA OF BLACK MARKS.
posted by eurasian at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2006

being german, I never really know what to say to such a question. I was born in '77 - I didn't do anything. I feel about the holocaust exactly the same way every other sane person does and so do my parents, who too were born way too late to have any chance to do anything about this.

toomuch, when confronted with this issue, I feel a bit blamed for something I didn't do or couldn't have done anything about. my reaction is one of 'you've got the wrong guy'. the generic assembly line worker, who by no means automatically is a german, probably feels the same way. that being said, you do have a pretty damn good reason to boycott german products, if only out of loyality to people you know who were wronged. but then the question would be whether they would still boycott said products.

all that being said I'd like to say don't buy a VW. those people here saying their quality is lacking are right. I wasn't impressed with my passat. but bmw's are tight.
posted by krautland at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

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