Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT

Business: The Economy

German industry unveils Holocaust fund

Slave labourers were used to boost Germany's war effort

Twelve leading German companies have established a fund to compensate victims of the Holocaust, after meeting Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

David Shukman in Bonn: "Auschwitz was built with a loan"
Mr Schröder said that the fund's overall sum had not yet been set. Reports in German newspapers suggest that the fund could be worth up to 3bn Deutschmarks (£1.2bn, $1.7bn).

The money will be used to compensate former slave labourers and people whose property or businesses were expropriated by the Nazis. According to government estimates around 200,000 to 300,000 people will be eligible for compensation, the majority of them living in Eastern Europe.

In a joint statement the companies said the fund for "remembrance, responsibility and the future" represented a final "material signal" on the issue. Deutsche Bank chairman Rolf Breuer, driving force behind setting up the foundation, called it a "milestone".

Chancellor Schröder said: "This paper shows that German business can deal responsibly with its history."

[ image: German companies could rely on a steady supply of workers from concentration camps]
German companies could rely on a steady supply of workers from concentration camps
The fund is being financed by some of the top names of German industry and is designed to cover not only compensation claims, but support future-oriented projects like youth exchanges as well.

The companies and the government hope that the establishment of the "voluntary fund" will avert the threat of multi-billion law suits in the United States. Lawyers acting for victims of Nazi rule are preparing several class action suits against companies like Deutsche Bank and Volkswagen.

Mr Schröder said the fund's function was "to counter lawsuits, particularly class action suits, and to remove the basis of the campaign being led against German industry and our country."

The German government has paid billions of Deutschmarks in compensation to former prisoners in concentration camps during past decades, including a settlement negotiated with the State of Israel. Most slave labourers, however, have not been compensated by the companies they were forced to work for.

Some businesses, like Volkswagen, have already agreed to pay their former workers around 10,000 Deutschmarks (£3,500, $5,700) each. Other companies have only recently begun to open their archives to independent historians and lay open their involvement in the Holocaust and World War II.

The declaration was signed by insurance company Allianz, chemical giants BASF, Hoechst and Bayer (successors of the notorious IG Farben), car companies BMW, DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank, steel and metal producers Degussa, Krupp and Hoesch and electronics conglomerate Siemens.

They appealed to other German firms who used slave labourers during the Third Reich to join the fund, too.

German companies had come under pressure to come to terms with their actions during the 1930s and 1940s after Swiss banks had established a Holocaust compensation fund.

The banks had been accused of refusing to pay out money belonging to Holocaust victims to the surviving relatives.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

The Economy Contents

Relevant Stories

14 Feb 99 | Europe
Volkswagen joins Holocaust fund

09 Feb 99 | The Company File
Holocaust claims threaten bank merger

05 Feb 99 | Europe
WJC to discuss compensation claims with Deutsche Bank

28 Jan 99 | Europe
Dresdner Bank traded in Nazi gold - study

In this section

Inquiry into energy provider loyalty

Brown considers IMF job

Chinese imports boost US trade gap

No longer Liffe as we know it

The growing threat of internet fraud

House passes US budget

Online share dealing triples

Rate fears as sales soar

Brown's bulging war-chest

Oil reaches nine-year high

UK unemployment falls again

Trade talks deadlocked

US inflation still subdued

Insolvent firms to get breathing space

Bank considered bigger rate rise

UK pay rising 'too fast'

Utilities face tough regulation

CBI's new chief named

US stocks hit highs after rate rise

US Fed raises rates

UK inflation creeps up

Row over the national shopping basket

Military airspace to be cut

TUC warns against following US

World growth accelerates

Union merger put in doubt

Japan's tentative economic recovery

EU fraud costs millions

CBI choice 'could wreck industrial relations'

WTO hails China deal

US business eyes Chinese market

Red tape task force

Websites and widgets

Guru predicts web surge

Malaysia's economy: The Sinatra Principle

Shell secures Iranian oil deal

Irish boom draws the Welsh

China deal to boost economy

US dream scenario continues

Japan's billion dollar spending spree