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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK

World: Europe

Nazi slave offer 'disgusting'

Talks on compensation have lasted for months

Lawyers for Nazi slave-labour survivors have called an offer of $3.3bn by the German Government and industries "disgusting".

[ image:  ]
The money was offered at talks in Washington over compensation for World War II atrocities.

Mel Weiss, a lawyer for survivors, was talking to reporters in front of the State Department after hearing the proposal made to a meeting of international negotiators by the chief German envoy to the talks, Otto Graf Lambsdorff.

Mr Weiss called the offer "an enormous disappointment".

"I told the German delegation they have done more harm to the German Government and German people than they can ever imagine," he said.

'Far too low'

BBC Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds: "The talks will continue later this year in Bonn."
Even before it was officially announced, lawyers representing the plaintiffs had said such an offer would be far too low.

They are seeking an amount in the region of $20bn - any less, they say, would be insulting.

"The offer amounts to about $300m or less in 1940 terms," Mr Weiss said.

The money offered by the German negotiators would have to be split between two million people, including former slave labourers, forced labourers, and people with claims against insurance companies and banks.

[ image: Lawyers for the victims are seeking more than $20bn in compensation]
Lawyers for the victims are seeking more than $20bn in compensation
The American official chairing the talks, Stuart Eizenstat, asked both sides for flexibility. The first figure put on the table, he said, was rarely the last.

Earlier, a spokesman for the 16 companies involved, Wolfgang Gibowski, denied that the companies were seeking a "cheap solution" to the dispute and said the amount on offer constituted "a very great deal of money".

The Washington talks follow earlier talks in Bonn co-hosted by the US Treasury which ended five weeks ago without agreement.

'Dignified offer'

Mr Lambsdorff has described the $20m sought by the plaintiffs as "very far removed from reality".

He said the amount proposed by the companies would be "a justified, dignified offer".

The offer is the first to be tabled by the companies' legal team after months of negotiations on how to compensate up to 2.5 million people forced to work for Nazi Germany.

Earlier this week, the World Council of Orthodox Jewish Communities filed a lawsuit in the US against Deutsche Bank, Germany's second-largest bank, alleging that it funded and profited from Nazi atrocities.

The talks will continue later this year in Germany.

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