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22 Adar II 5760 - March 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Slave Labor Compensation Pact Reached with Germany

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Some 240,000 Nazi-era slave laborers would receive up to DM 15,000 each under an agreement reached in Berlin on the allocation of the DM 10 billion German fund to settle World War II claims.

The plan, which must be affirmed by legislation in the Bundestag, would set aside DM 8.15 billion for all labor claims. Of that, DM 1.81 billion would be distributed by the Claims Conference to Jewish victims, according to the terms reached by German, Israeli, U.S. and Central and Eastern European negotiators.

Forced laborers--primarily non-Jewish Eastern European compulsory workers who were not detained in Nazi camps--are expected to get DM 5,000 each. The largest number of these workers are in Poland and Ukraine.

The plan was hailed by U.S., German, and Jewish negotiators, but was assailed by some European survivors who vowed to pursue their claims for compensation in European courts.

The German initiative, which is being financed equally by German industry and the government, would set aside DM 700 million for the so-called "future fund," which would be used for unspecified educational, social, and cultural projects. Industry had argued that the future fund was a condition for participation; victims' advocates said virtually the entire amount should be used for victims.

Advocates for some one million Central and Eastern European Nazi victims had long insisted that DM 9 billion be set aside for labor claims. That pitted Jewish against non-Jewish victims, because the labor claims would have been, in part, at the expense of property claims.

"The future fund will function as a compulsory tax on survivors, will take away money that is theirs, and will act as a whitewash for German industry, rather than for history and remembrance," British historian Michael Pinto- Duschinsky said.

The agreement also set aside funds for property claims, German bank accounts, and war-era insurance policies. The insurance portion would be handled by a separate international commission, led by former U.S. secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger.

There was some confusion about how the German fund would be reconciled with the $1.25 billion settlement against the Swiss banks, which also covers two classes of slave labor. According to sources, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat said that DM 100 million will be transferred from the Swiss settlement to the German fund. However, the Swiss settlement has not yet been approved.

Eizenstat said in Berlin that the German government's legislation, which legally would create the foundation, must adhere to the negotiated agreement for German enterprises to get the "legal peace" from class-action lawsuits filed in U.S. federal courts.

The U.S. government cannot dismiss the lawsuits. But it has said it would side with German industry and advise American courts that lawsuits should be dismissed because the German fund would handle all Nazi-era claims.

The Washington law firm representing German industry previously had said that the agreement hinges, in part, on such legal protection from the U.S., Israel, and Central and Eastern European governments. However, British survivors said that they would pursue their claims in European courts.

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