Tags: Path | Cleared | for | Nazi | Slave | Compensation

Path Cleared for Nazi Slave Compensation

Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM

Berlin's representative to the industry-government compensation program, Otto Graf Lambsdorff, said Tuesday a U.S. court decision provides the legal protection sought by fund participants, which include more than 6,300 German companies.

The Bundestag will be asked to approve legislation confirming the legal protection as soon as possible, said Lambsdorff, a special representative of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on the slave-compensation issue.

Bundestag leader and Greens Party spokesman Volker Beck said the path for payouts could be cleared in two weeks, before lawmakers begin a summer break.

More than 1.2 million survivors of Nazi forced labor policies are each expected to receive between $2,500 and $8,000. Most of the victims live in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Israel and the Czech Republic. Groups representing the former slaves, forced to work in Third Reich factories and farms in the 1930s and '40s, have been pressing for fast compensation, mainly because of the victims' advanced age. Every day in the Czech Republic, for example, officials say another 15 eligible people die.

Lambsdorff's announcement was triggered by a Monday ruling in New York by U.S. District Judge Shirley Kram. The judge threw out lawsuits against German banks filed in behalf of some Nazi slave laborers who claimed the compensation plan did not go far enough.

Despite committing to the process, some German companies had stalled the payouts for more than a year. They refused to release the money until guarantees were in place protecting them from future U.S. lawsuits -- a demand that the United States said would be considered only after payments began. In March, Schroeder broke the deadlock by urging the companies to honor their promise. He also said delaying the payout would increase the likelihood of costly lawsuits, such as the class-action claim dismissed by Kram.

Kram's decision was expected to be followed by dismissals this week for several other lawsuits pending in U.S. courts. The decision complied with a federal appeals court ruling last week ordering the unconditional dismissal of cases against German banks.

The lawsuits are the last, consolidated, class-action lawsuits against German companies from the Nazi era.

The checks - totaling about $4.5 billion - will be issued through the Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future Foundation, created by German industries in February 1999. The cost is being evenly shared by the government and industries.

The foundation announced in March that it had received company pledges for the $2.2 billion needed to start the payment process. Some companies have agreed to contribute more than their original share to make up for underpayments by others.

Agencies representing victims have been set up by governments in affected countries. The agencies have compiled lists of victims and have the task of making sure they're paid.

Victims in Poland, Ukraine and those represented by the Jewish Claims Conference will each receive nearly $900 million. About $400 million will go to Russian victims and $300 million to those in Belarus. About $20 million will be specially allocated to victims of Nazi medical experiments.

Slave laborers were not included in previous Nazi Holocaust compensation programs. The practice of forcing workers from occupied countries to work for the German war machine was not an issue before the Iron Curtain fell in 1989 and victims in East Europe began telling their stories. The U.S. government began pressing Berlin for a compensation program in 1998.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Berlin's representative to the industry-government compensation program, Otto Graf Lambsdorff, said Tuesday a U.S. court decision provides the legal protection sought by fund participants, which include more than 6,300 German companies. The Bundestag will be asked to...
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2001-00-22
Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM
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