From Nazism to child labor, the controversial biography of Mr Ikea

He was certainly a genius of entrepreneurship, but the story of Ingvar Kamprad, who died at the age of 91, is also dotted with many disquieting sides

He was one of the men who made Sweden rich, avant-garde and world famous as a model of quality of life and design, but in youth it was a convinced Nazi. His products, from North America to Italy, from Germany to China, were a symbol of tasteful furnishings and low cost, but in spite of saving he did not hesitate to always relocate most of the production in China, other Asian countries, Romania, or different locations where its employees worked in inhumane conditions, underpaid and without the right to rely on the defense of trade unions. Ingvar Kamprad, founder and owner of Ikea, the Swedish low cost furniture giant, died this morning at the age of 91 in his home in Smaland. In his homeland he had in fact been legally betrayed, to pay less taxes, and moved his residence in Switzerland for decades. Then, as he grew older, he had regretted, and he had been able to return home. It was the thing he cared about most, he said recently, in the fall of his life. In the history of the great north and the world economy he will remain one of the most brilliant and controversial entrepreneurs, and one of the most discussed Swedish and Scandinavian celebrities in the world.

 "I always liked to produce and sell at low cost", was his motto since he started with matches in youth. He was born in the small village of Aelmhult, and began to work on his own when at the age of 17 he received a cash prize from his father for his good results at school. He used the money to build a match factory, and then the logo was born: IKEA is the abbreviation derived from his initials, plus the abbreviation of Elmtaryd, the farm where he had grown up, and Agunnaryd, a village nearby. 

But he started immediately, and then they told Swedish media for decades, attacking him several times for decades, working without scruples. By his own admission, he realized that he would spare himself in spite of his employees by buying matches (the famous Swedes) elsewhere in the country at the lowest possible production cost and then reselling them. 

So far the ruthlessness. But the most serious accusations indirectly link it to the darkest period of European history: the rise to power of Hitler, the persecutions of the first German Jews then of all Europe, the Second World War and the launch of the Third Reich on the part of the Third Reich following the decisions of industrial genocide taken scientifically by the Nazi hierarchy at the 1942 conference in the famous villa on Lake Wannsee near Berlin, called "Conference for the final solution of the Jewish problem".

Ingvar Kamprad, already a young entrepreneur, said he could not know, despite what he said before trying to defend himself. All the more so because in Norse Sweden many Jews who had escaped the Nazis from occupied Europe found refuge and salvation, and they spoke clearly. It does not matter, he - among the many members of the Swedish civil and military establishment who then admired Nazism, considering also the Scandinavians a pure superior race - he enrolled in the most important National Socialist movement of the kingdom, the Nysvenska Rörelsen (new Swedish movement) . He also took an active part in the SSS paramilitary organization - an initiation inspired by that of Hitler's Waffen-SS - of the movement, an organization that often threatened Jews or left written and hostile messages in their homes or shops, and together he carried out active anti-Semitic propaganda. He was a friend of the small Führer of the movement, Per Engdahl, he helped him tirelessly in the recruitment of new militants, he remained a great friend even after the war and the dissound of the Axis, until the fifties. And even after his death he called him "a great man" in public, even though he "did not share all his ideas".

Ingvar Kamprad was never sanctioned for these indelible dark pages of his biography. Because it had become too important a symbol of the success of the Swedish model, with the social democrats of Tage Erlander and later of Olof Palme in power for decades, initiators of the envied model of competitive but social capitalism with the best welfare of the world and model of solidarity society with poor countries and open to all migrants. Touching him, many thought, a crack would open in the image of the model. And according to historians, too many embarrassing pages would have come to light on the comfortable Swedish neutrality in war, those narrated at the time of Olof Palme by the famous historical study-indictment Heder och Samvete, "Honor and conscience."

That of Stockholm was sometimes complicit with Hitler's Germany, which received from Sweden supplies of valuable raw materials for the war industry and had free transit from Stockholm for military trains and troops of troops to and from occupied Norway, troops engaged in the brutal repression against the Norwegian Resistance in reprisals against civilians and in the selection of the most perfect Aryan children in Norway.

After the war, Ingvar Kamprad tried to make up for it by opening up firmly in the newly established State of Israel. But he soon passed from a choice that was at least questionable if not at the margins of illegality to another. He is a citizen of a country where fidelity to tax laws is a constitutive value more than almost everywhere else, he moved his residence in Switzerland for decades, to save money. And in interviews and official profiles he defined himself as morigerate and obsessed with savings, so much so that he used a 15-year-old car and used only low-cost or used clothing. 

Meanwhile he continued to get rich: according to Forbeshe was among the wealthiest in the world, with assets of at least $ 33 billion. Heritage that made it accessible to the Swedish treasury only with regret from homesickness in the last years of his life. But meanwhile, in the decades from the post-war period up to now Swedish TV, radio and media and online media moved him to more serious accusations. Increasingly, he shifted production from Sweden and other European countries to Asian or Eastern European countries where labor costs were minimal, often because deported or political prisoners were mounted to build beautiful "made in Sweden" low cost furniture, and trade union rights. null. 

Between 1997 and 2001 the part of Ikea production realized in countries with low-cost labor and minimum or no trade union rights rose according to The Observerfrom 32 to 48 percent of the total. The Swedish and German public broadcasters accused the legendary Ingvar Kamprad of exploiting in his installations children treated in degrading and inhumane conditions in at least four countries: Pakistan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines. Exploitation charges also in Romanian plants. The Swedish colossus created its own section responsible for the rights and dignity of its employees all over the world, but according to many NGOs this did not really solve the problems or eliminate the fundamentals of the accusations. With this story, with so many memories of unscrupulous stratagems to gain and extraordinary successes as a genius entrepreneur, the former Nazi pardoned Ingvar Kamprad has died serene and ninety-one in his home, in his home, who knows whether or not carrying remorse in the grave .

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