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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Berlin
"This agreement is a landmark for the surviving slave labourers"
 real 28k

Rudy Kennedy
"My mother and my sister were gassed immediately"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 18:26 GMT
Nazi slave cash dismissed as 'gesture'

Auschwitz Rudy Kennedy survived the Nazi slave gangs


US and German negotiators have agreed on a 3.3bn ($5.2bn) compensation fund for victims of Nazi slave labour camps but for many it is too little too late.

Former Nazi slave Rudy Kennedy was only 15 when he was taken to Auschwitz.

He watched the Nazis send his mother and sister straight to the gas chambers.

Mr Kennedy, one of about 300 survivors who live in the UK, then saw his father - a "fit 43-year-old" - die after less than eight weeks working alongside him in appalling conditions.

Now the German Government has offered him about 4,400 ($7,000) for his ordeal.



I survived, don't ask me how. I wasn't a hero, it was just luck
Rudy Kennedy

Not surprisingly, Mr Kennedy, now 71, is not impressed by the agreement reached between Germany and the US on a compensation fund worth for him and fellow survivors.

"Most of the banks contributing to the payment fund will be supplying more in this year's Christmas bonuses to their senior staff than to the entire group of survivors of the Nazi regime," he claims.

The retired engineer says the German Government will never succeed in attempts to achieve what he calls "moral closure".

Number of claimants unknown

Mr Kennedy, who came to live in the UK after the war, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is not enough money. If you take the optimistic view we are talking about $7,000 each."

He said the problem was nobody knew how many claimants there were - estimates suggest 2.3 million slaves survived the death camps.

"There are a very large number of people involved, we don't know how many.


Prisoners Prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp
"We're not just talking about Jewish slave labour but also other people who worked in industry during the war," said Mr Kennedy.

When he describes his harrowing experiences, it is easy to understand why he describes the settlement as nothing but a "gesture".

He recalls: "I was taken as a 15-year-old with my family from Breslau (moden-day Wroclaw in Poland) to Auschwitz.

"There was a selection process, most people know about this by now.

Owned by the SS

"My mother and my sister were gassed immediately but my father and myself were allowed to work.

"I was owned by the SS and they hired us out to big companies such as Hoechst, BASF, Agfa and Bayer.

"My father managed to stay alive about eight weeks. There was not enough food and the work was very hard.

"I survived, don't ask me how. I wasn't a hero, it was just luck."

He said: "We were like a piece of sandpaper which you use for a while and then throw away."

As the war progressed and the German army retreated, Mr Kennedy was taken first to Dora, near Hanover, where he was forced to construct the V1 and V2 missiles.

'Bag of bones'

Later, as the Red Army and US troops closed in, he was taken to Belsen, where he was finally liberated by British soldiers.

He told BBC News Online: "When they arrived I was like a bag of bones and they thought I was dead. But one of them kicked me and I moved. That's what saved me."

Mr Kennedy said a few thousand dollars is scant compensation.

"It is a gesture. And the German government and industry are asking for closure and they are also asking for moral closure.

"That will never happen."



We were like sandpaper which you use for a while and then throw away
Rudy Kennedy
He says: "For years the Germans denied the conditions were so bad for us. They blamed it on the war.

"But there were millions of non-Jewish civilian workers who did not suffer the same conditions as we did. It is nonsense to blame the war."

Mr Kennedy said it was an a "outrage" that the survivors had to bring a class action in the US before the German Government were prepared to negotiate.

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See also:
14 Dec 99 |  Europe
$5bn Nazi slave fund agreed
17 Nov 99 |  Europe
New German slave labour compensation offer
08 Dec 99 |  Europe
Germany firm on Nazi slave offer
15 Nov 99 |  Europe
Stakes rise in Nazi compensation row
07 Oct 99 |  Europe
Nazi slave offer 'disgusting'
16 Nov 99 |  UK
Enslaved by the Nazis
18 Aug 99 |  Europe
Ford 'used slave labour' from Auschwitz
04 Nov 99 |  Americas
US ponders Nazi slave compensation

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