The Quandt family - one of Germany's wealthiest business dynasties - has pledged to reveal details of its activities during the Nazi era.
Quandt family members have a 46.6% stake in BMW
The family's announcement followed a German TV documentary in which former prisoners of the Nazis spoke of wartime abuses at a Quandt battery factory.
Quandt family members own big blocks of shares in German luxury car maker BMW and chemicals group Altana AG.
Many big German firms have offered compensation to former slave labourers.
In 2001 a US court ruling cleared the way for compensation to be disbursed from a $4.8bn (3.4bn euros; £2.4bn) fund set up by the German government and thousands of German firms. BMW, Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen were among them.
German officials had delayed compensation until US lawsuits had been dropped.
After decades of silence on the issue, Quandt family members said on Friday: "We recognise that, in our history as a German business family, the years 1933 to 1945 have not been sufficiently cleared up".
They announced a research project to throw light on the family's Nazi-era past.
"The accusations that have been raised against our family have moved us," the statement said.
The documentary, broadcast by the publicly-run channel ARD on 30 September, contained testimony from former slave labourers, who spoke of cruel treatment by Nazi guards at the Afa battery factory in Hanover.
The factory was owned by Guenther Quandt, whose links with the Nazis were explored in the film.
After their divorce, his first wife Magda Ritschel married Hitler's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
According to the film, a concentration camp provided slave labour for the Afa factory.
Since 1959 the Quandts have owned nearly 50% of BMW. Herbert Quandt turned the business into a champion of German industry after the war.