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The BBC's Rob Broomby reports
"Relief if not jubilation"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 15:11 GMT
Agreement on slave labour fund
Eizenstat and Lambsdorff
US negotiator Stuart Eizenstat and German negotiator Otto Lambsdorff after the fund agreement is reached
Negotiators have agreed in principle on how to allocate the money from a $5bn fund to compensate Nazi-era slave and forced labourers.

The agreement resolves the last major point of contention after months of negotiations.

"We have taken a huge step forward today," said Deputy Treasury Stuart Eizenstat, the US negotiator.

"This brings this process a substantial step closer to completion," he said.

Under the terms of the deal, slave and forced labour victims will receive $4.08bn in compensation.

Poland and the Ukraine will get the bulk of that money while the rest will be divided up between Russia, Belarus, the Czech Republic and the rest of the world.

We have taken a huge step forward today

Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. negotiator
A further $500m will cover property claims, including stolen bank accounts and insurance policies and humanitarian cases.

Another $350m will be used to set up a research foundation, while the remaining $100m will go on administrative and legal fees.

The German Government will finance half of the fund, while German companies will fund the other half.

Berlin talks

The agreement is the result of negotiations in Berlin between Germany, the United States, Jewish groups, lawyers and representatives of victims from Poland, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Russia and the Ukraine.

Since all the parties agreed to the $5bn fund in December, they have been wrangling about how to distribute the money, with countries like Poland demanding more money for the actual victims.

German industry insisted that a research centre should be included in the fund, while Jewish groups wanted money allocated for bank and insurance claims.

Mr Eizenstat called for the German Government to speed up enacting legislation to create the foundation, which will disperse the funds.

The German cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill to set up the fund and hopes it will become law before the summer.

Mr Eizenstat said the law must be exactly in line with the agreement if German businesses want protection from lawsuits in the US.

Auschwitz camp
Prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp
Germany and German companies that used forced and slave labour during the Nazi era agreed to set up the fund last year in exchange for protection from US class-action lawsuits.

Between 800,000 and 2.3 million people could benefit from the fund, most of whom are non-Jews from Eastern Europe left out of previous German compensation payments during the communist era.

Officials stressed the urgency of the need to reach agreement, since most of the former slave workers are in their 80s.

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17 Dec 99 | Europe
End to slave labour battle
14 Dec 99 | Europe
Nazi slave fund 'agreed'
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