In the spring of 1945, Harald Quandt, a 23-year-old officer in the German Luftwaffe, was being held as a prisoner of war by Allied forces in the Libyan port city of Benghazi when he received a farewell letter from his mother, Magda Goebbels — the wife of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
The hand-written note confirmed the devastating news he had heard weeks earlier: His mother had committed suicide with her husband on May 1, after slipping their six children cyanide capsules in Adolf Hitler’s underground bunker in Berlin.
“My dear son! By now we’ve been in the Fuehrerbunker for six days already, Daddy, your six little siblings and I, to give our national socialistic lives the only possible, honorable ending,” she wrote. “Harald, dear son, I want to give you what I learned in life: Be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country!”
Quandt was released from captivity in 1947. Seven years later, he and his half-brother Herbert — Harald was the only remaining child from Magda Goebbels’ first marriage — would inherit the industrial empire built by their father, Guenther Quandt, which had produced Mauser firearms and anti-aircraft missiles for the Third Reich’s war machine. Among their most valuable assets at the time was a stake in car manufacturer Daimler AG. (DAI) They bought a part of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) a few years later.