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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK

World: Europe

Nazi slaves take case to US

The survivors are seeking a settlement nearer $20bn

By Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker

A lawyer representing Nazi slave-labour survivors has said that a number of victims will file compensation claims in the US courts on Friday.

The decision follows the rejection by survivors' groups of an offer of $3bn from the German Government and a group of German businesses which made use of slave and forced labour.

[ image: A concentration camp victim shows her identification tattoo]
A concentration camp victim shows her identification tattoo
One of the lawyers involved in the compensation negotiations, Ed Fagan, described the German offer as insulting, when translated to the level of individuals.

He said it was equivalent to $5,263 per slave labourer.

Mr Fagan told the BBC that survivors now based in nine different countries - most in Europe, but not including Germany - would bring what are called class actions in the US courts for compensation.

The rulings in such actions apply to other similar cases, so they have the potential to generate very large liabilities for the businesses who would have to defend themselves.

'A question of global morality'

Mr Fagan wants the German parties to the negotiations to voluntarily make a better offer.

"This is a question of global morality. The Germans want a resolution," he said.

"They want to buy off the world's conscience and they want to do it for bargain basement numbers."

The number that Mr Fagan and the survivors have in mind is $20bn, more than six times the German offer.

He says that he would much prefer a negotiated agreement.

While a court case might yield much higher amounts of compensation, it would take a long time.

The claimants are elderly and many would not be alive to receive any award after protracted legal proceedings.

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