I'll Keep My Money, Flick Tells Oxford

Daily Mail (London), April 16, 1996 | Go to article overview

I'll Keep My Money, Flick Tells Oxford


Byline: CYRIL DIXON

IT was a dispute which brought ugly memories of concentration camps and slave labour to Oxford's dreaming spires.

On one side was a leading German industrialist, eager to put the family fortune to good use by financing a new professorship in one of the world's foremost seats of learning.

Ranged against him was a group of academics, determined to protect the integrity of their college from links which could be seen as tainted with the blood of slave labour camp victims.

Last night, the saga came to its dramatic conclusion when it emerged that Dr Gert-Rudolph Flick, flamboyant heir to the Mercedes motor fortune, had abandoned plans to sponsor a chair in European Thought at Oxford University.

In a short letter, Dr Flick admitted defeat at the hands of the critics who had opposed him because his grandfather Friedrich had allegedly built the family fortune on the sweat and toil of Jews during World War Two.

He wrote: `I write today to express my wish that my name be removed from the chair and that the endowment money be returned to me.

`I would like to thank the university whole-heartedly for its unwavering support, for which I shall always be grateful.

`It has been an honour to be associated with Oxford University and its programmes, but, nevertheless, I sincerely hope that you will understand my position.'

The debate first emerged earlier this year, after Dr Flick offered the [pounds sterling]350,000 gift to fund the Flick Chair in European Thought at Balliol College.

Critics were incensed that a fortune which had undeniable connections with the Nazi regime could be considered as a backer for learning at an English university.

They pointed out that two generations ago, Friedrich Flick had forged the industrial empire from factories which used Jewish labour, including hundreds of Hungarian women, drafted in from Auschwitz.

Friedrich was also an adviser to SS leader, Heinrich Himmler, and was reputed to have used a total of 40,000 slave labourers during the war years.

He was tried and convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg in 1947 and jailed for seven years but served only three and was freed in 1950.

He died, aged 89, in 1972. The massive fortune was shared between Dr Flick and his younger brother, Friedrich-Christian, who bear the respective nicknames `Muck' and `Mick'. …

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