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The BBC's Patrick Bartlett in Frankfurt
"Chancellor Schroeder had feared an embarrassing showdown over the issue"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 20:51 GMT
Firms fulfil Nazi slave pledge
The fund was set up to show solidarity with Nazi victims
A group of leading German firms has said it is prepared to make up a $700m shortfall in a fund to compensate Nazi-era slave labourers.

The $4.8bn fund was created last summer and was supposed to have included equal contributions from the German Government and German industry.

German industry knows what its responsibilities are

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
It soon emerged, however, that the foundation representing industry did not have enough money to cover its half.

The shortfall threatened a deal under which the firms would be protected from lawsuits in United States courts if they compensated World War II slave labourers.

Payments yet to begin

It is still not clear when the estimated one million surviving victims of Nazi-era slave labour camps will actually get the money they have been promised.

Wolfgang Gibowski, a spokesman for the industry fund, said on Tuesday that payments would begin "as soon as sufficient legal security is reached - and that should be the case as soon as possible."

A judge in the US may have given impetus to the industrial fund-raising efforts last week.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Mr Schroeder pushed industry to meet its pledge
She refused to dismiss a Holocaust-related suit, noting that the compensation fund was not yet in operation.

Under pressure, a number of founder members of the industrial fund - such as auto-maker BMW, Dresdner Bank and Deutsche Bank - agreed to double their contributions to make sure targets were met.

The firms reportedly agreed to contribute around 0.2% of 1998 turnover, up from an agreed 0.1%.

Slave labourers

The fund is designed to pay compensation to the people who were forced to work in German-owned factories during the World War II.

The survivors - mostly eastern Europeans, but also Jews and prisoners of war - will receive one-time lump-sum payments of up to 15,000 marks ($7,160).

The level of compensation will depend on their experience during the war.

Additional monies from the fund will be used to fund Holocaust-related projects.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pushed hard to make sure industry came up with its half of the funds.

He is planning to meet leading industrialists on Wednesday to make sure the money is forthcoming.

"German industry knows what its responsibilities are", Mr Schroeder said on Tuesday.

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See also:

28 Nov 00 | Europe
$700m hole in Nazi slave fund
06 Jul 00 | Europe
$5bn Nazi slave fund approved
07 Oct 99 | Europe
Nazi slave offer 'disgusting'
16 Nov 99 | UK
Enslaved by the Nazis
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