With the calls for him to resign growing ever louder, Max Mosley went on the offensive on Thursday. The president of the FIA, Formula One's ruling body, is under siege following a News of the World expose which purported to show him taking part in a Nazi-style orgy with five call-girls. A joint statement issued by two German F1 manufacturers, BMW and Mercedes, described the content of the newspaper report as "disgraceful" and Mosley's alleged behaviour "repulsive". They added: "As a company, we disassociate ourselves from it completely."
Mosley, son of the pre-war British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, responded with an attack on the wartime links of the families that owned the two car-makers. "Given the history of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, particularly before and during the Second World War, I fully understand why they would wish to strongly distance themselves from what they rightly describe as the disgraceful content of these publications," he said.
Mosley was referring to the Quandts and the Flicks, two families who had prospered under Hitler and went on to own large shares in BMW and Mercedes respectively. Last September, German TV aired a stunning documentary called The Silence of the Quandt Family on how industrialist Gunther Quandt used slave labour from concentration camps to run factories in Berlin, Hanover and Vienna. Charged with making batteries for U-boats and V2 rockets, one worker described how he was forced to drink water from the toilets. "We were also whipped," he said.
Quandt, the film suggested, made allowances for 80 of his staff to die every month. Despite this, Quandt managed to evade justice. His wealth grew after the war, and in 1959 his son Herbert Quandt bought BMW.
Unlike Quandt, Friedrich Flick did not avoid the Nuremburg trials. A leading Nazi benefactor and close friend of Himmler's, he was sentenced to seven years in jail, of which he served three. During the war, Flick had used 48,000 slave labourers from concentration camps at his various mines, munitions factories and industrial plants. As many as 80 per cent of these workers would die as a result of their working conditions. Flick became one of the world's richest men before his death in 1972, but never paid a penny in compensation to the families of those who'd died working for him. He compiled stocks in Mercedes during the 1950s, and saw the share price rocket during his tenure there.
Mosley will not attend this weekend's grand prix in Bahrain. His invitation was withdrawn by the crown prince, Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, who felt it would be "inappropriate" for Mosley "to be in Bahrain at this time".