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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 05:36 GMT 06:36 UK
Nazi slave fund pays out
Slave labourers producing shells in a Nazi factory
Survivors are receiving an initial payment of $4,400
Thousands of Holocaust survivors who were forced into slave labour by the Nazis have begun receiving compensation payments after years of legal wrangles.

It's a little too late and a little too little

Former slave labourer Aron Krell
An initial payment of $4,400 has been made to approximately 10,000 Jewish survivors in 25 countries from a $4.5bn fund set up by the German Government and companies.

At the same time, cheques were sent to 10,000 non-Jewish survivors in the Czech Republic.

Up to 1.5 million surviving slave and forced labourers, including 160,000 Jews, are believed to be eligible for compensation.

Jewish concentration camp inmates
German companies long denied responsibility for using slave labour
The compensation was agreed two years ago but was held back by legal disputes.

But the occasion was strained by bitterness over the moral issues of the Holocaust.

"This is not a compensation for our suffering, this is only a pittance paying back for the work that we did for those companies," said Aron Krell, 73, a slave labourer in two concentration camps during World War II.

"It's a little too late and a little too little, but nevertheless, the idea is that they really came to the conclusion that they are responsible for our suffering."

Germany has paid some $60bn in restitution for suffering at the hands of the Nazis, but slave labour had always fallen between the cracks.

No survivors will get rich and no amount of money can ever compensate

Jewish Claims Conference
German companies long denied responsibility for using slave labour, arguing they had been pressured by the Nazis.

Most of the survivors are in their 70s and 80s and many have died in the years since negotiations over compensation began.

"There is no justice," said Greg Schneider, assistant director of the Jewish Claims Conference.

"Despite the talks of billions of dollars in settlement funds and raised expectations, no survivors will get rich and no amount of money can ever compensate."

Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, Dieter Kastrup said that there can never be moral closure.

"We have to make sure that a tragic history does not repeat itself," he added.

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