Dr. Oetker and National Socialism: The History of a Family-Run Business, 1933-1945

Abgeschlossenes Projekt

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Sven Keller
Weitere Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter:  

Jürgen Finger


From 2009 to 2012, Andreas Wirsching led the project at the University of Augsburg on “Scopes of Action and System Constraints on Entrepreneurial Activity: The Family-Run Business Dr. Oetker during the Nazi Regime”. The project concluded with a report that provided the basis for a monograph at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) beginning in April 2012. Sven Keller, as a former project member, adapted and expanded the manuscript at the IfZ in cooperation with Jürgen Finger (Ludwig Maximilian University). The book appeared in autumn 2013.


Dr. Oetker was and continues to be one of the most successful family-run companies in Germany. From the beginning of the 20th century, it dominated the baking and pudding powder industry, while also expanding throughout Europe and to other business segments as early as the 1920s. As a family-run company in the food industry, the company can provide new perspectives on the Nazi-era economy that have previously been underrepresented in historical research, which has focused its attentions more on major industrial companies relevant to armaments or the financial sector.


The company and family Oetker maintained close ties to the Nazi movement, the Wehrmacht, and the SS. Richard Kaselowsky, who ran the company, which was to become one of the first “National Socialist model companies”, was a member of the Freundeskreis Reichsführer-SS (“Circle of Friends of the Reichsführer-SS”). The direct heir to the company’s founder, Rudolf-August Oetker, received training as an Waffen SS economic and administrative leader, before he took the reins of the company himself. Even before the war began, the food company profited from the “military boom” and Oetker products found their way into military and industrial kitchens. During the war, these products were viewed as an important contribution towards providing for the civilian population on the “home front”. In the face of widespread shortages, pudding and baked goods using frugal wartime recipes offered a welcome change of pace. Oetker had access to raw materials that were becoming harder to obtain, and was thus able to preserve its brand all throughout the war. The company also profited from the “Aryanization” of Jewish property, while forced labor was employed in food production only to a limited extent.

Publications within the project

Jürgen Finger, Sven Keller,  Andreas Wirsching

Dr. Oetker und der Nationalsozialismus.

München 2013


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