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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
Siemens retreats over Nazi name
Auschwitz liberated
Siemens is at the heart of Holocaust compensation claims
German engineering giant Siemens has hastily abandoned plans to register the trademark "Zyklon", the same name as the Zyklon B poison gas used in Nazi extermination camps, BBC News Online has learnt.

A year ago, Bosch Siemens Hausgeraete (BSH), the firm's consumer products joint venture, filed two applications with the US Patent & Trademark Office for the Zyklon name across a range of home products, including gas ovens.


Siemens should know better... This is a major, major scandal

Dr Shimon Samuels
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Jewish groups have condemned the move, in particular because Siemens used slave labour during the Nazi period.

"We are very sorry if this trademark application has caused any offence," Bosch Siemens spokeswoman Eva Delabre told BBC News Online, confirming that the firm had never used and had now no intention of using the name in the US.

Last month, UK sports goods maker Umbro apologised after complaints that it named one of its sports shoes Zyklon.

Name blame

Zyklon B, originally an insecticide, was widely used in gas chambers in the latter stages of the Nazi Holocaust.

A Siemens Zyklon vacuum cleaner
Siemens already uses the Zyklon name in Germany

The word Zyklon means "Cyclone" in German, and is already applied to some Siemens vacuum cleaners in its home market. It uses a technology similar to the bagless "cyclone" vacuum cleaners pioneered by UK inventor James Dyson.

But while the name may have been chosen innocently, it was condemned as insensitive by observers.

"Siemens should know better because it was directly complicit in the use of slave labour," said Dr Shimon Samuels, head of the European arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organisation.

"This is a major, major scandal."

Hasty retreat

A reader had alerted BBC News Online to the Zyklon trademark application.

When BBC News Online queried Bosch Siemens about its plans for the Zyklon product range, the company quickly made an about-turn, saying that "today BSH has begun taking the necessary steps to withdraw its trademark applications" for Zyklon.

Compensation claims

Like many other large German firms, Siemens is now involved in plans to compensate victims of the Nazi regime.

The German Government is still working on ways to deliver about 3.5bn in reparations to victims and their families.

Efforts to distribute compensation have been complicated by a mass of private lawsuits, mainly in US courts, alleging use of slave labour and other forms of profiteering from the Holocaust.

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 ON THIS STORY
John Simmons, Interbrand
"This is probably the worst example [of a marketing mistake] in my experience"
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09 Jun 00 | Europe
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