The heir to the German company behind Leibniz biscuits has been criticised after apparently downplaying the suffering of people forced to work at the family business under Nazi rule.

Verena Bahlsen told Bild newspaper that Bahlsen, which employed 200 forced labourers during World War Two, did nothing wrong.

She added: This was before my time and we paid the forced labourers exactly as much as German workers and we treated them well.

Miss Bahlsen, 25, was sharply criticised by German politicians while some social media users called for a boycott of the company, which is behind some of the country’s best-known biscuit brands.

Bahlsen itself said in a statement that it was aware of the big suffering and injustice experienced by forced labourers at the company – who were mostly women, many of them from Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

It said it voluntarily paid around £650,000 in 2000-2001 to a fund set up to compensate 20 million forced labourers used by the Nazis.

Some have failed in individual lawsuits to obtain compensation from the company.

Bahlsen has annual sales of more than €500m (£430m).

Miss Bahlsen is one of four children of company owner Werner Bahlsen.

She has previously been criticised for boasting about her wealth.

Miss Bahlsen said at a business event in Hamburg earlier this month: I own a fourth of Bahlsen and I am very happy about that.

I want to earn money and buy a sailing yacht.

The criticism of her comments is the latest example of major German corporations being confronted with their past behaviour under the Nazi regime.

Earlier this year the Reimann family – whose business empire includes well-known brands such as Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Pret a Manger – said they planned to donate millions to charity after learning of their ancestors’ keen support of Hitler and use of forced labourers.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess had to apologise in March after using a phrase which evoked the Nazi slogan arbeit macht frei (work sets you free) during an internal management event.

(c) Sky News 2019: Leibniz biscuit heir criticised over forced labourer comments