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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Path cleared for Nazi fund pay-out
Slave labourers producing shells in a Nazi factory
Munitions factories relied on slave labour
German companies say they are ready to start payments to the multi-billion dollar compensation fund for people forced into slave labour during the Nazi era.

The announcement removes the last obstacle to compensation being paid to the estimated one million survivors of Hitler's slave labour programmes.

I think it is a final act in which we underline that we feel responsible for what has been done in our history

Manfred Gentz, industry fund chairman
The companies made their announcement after a court in the United States dismissed one of the last outstanding lawsuits against them.

The industries have demanded guarantees against existing and future lawsuits before they pay their contribution. Industries and the German Government have each contributed half of the DM10bn ($4.5bn) raised.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Chancellor Schroeder: delighted with the arrangement
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder moved quickly to endorse the move, and said he believed parliament could quickly give its approval.

Mr Schroeder said he was relieved and satisfied that it would soon be possible to begin payments.

Last week, the German Government said the payments could start by July if the companies received the guarantees they have been asking for.

Dark chapter closing

The victims, who are all elderly, stand to receive up to $7,000 each.

They include about 200,000 former Jewish concentration camp inmates in addition to other people mostly drafted in from Nazi-occupied eastern Europe.

Manfred Gentz
Manfred Gentz hopes the move will bring closure
The final legal obstacle blocking the compensation pay-outs was removed on Monday when a US judge, Shirley Kram, dismissed a set of claims brought former victims.

But her reluctance to throw out an earlier lawsuit was blamed by the chairman of the German industry fund, Manfred Gentz, for delaying payments by several months.

Last week, Judge Kram was overruled by a US Appeals Court. Mr Gentz said German companies were now confident the few outstanding Holocaust related cases in the US would be quickly dismissed.

He added that he believed the payments to slave labourers would finally draw a legal and moral line under the darkest period in German industrial history.

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See also:

10 May 01 | Europe
Nazi slave labour payouts cleared
13 Mar 01 | Europe
Firms fulfil Nazi slave pledge
28 Nov 00 | Europe
$700m hole in Nazi slave fund
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