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 Posted Saturday, October 9, 1999

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In September 1998 Abe Foxman, the head of the anti-Defamation League confessed that the Jews had "bludgeoned" (his word) the Swiss into parting with Gold; now the violence has resumed. . .

The Independent

October 7, 1999



REPRESENTATIVES OF Holocaust survivors spoke of their "huge disappointment" yesterday as German industry's long-awaited offer to compensate wartime slave workers fell far below their bottom line.

Though the gap between the sum the Germans seemed prepared to put up and that expected by survivors has narrowed in recent months, the difference still exceeded 20bn German marks (pounds 6.8bn). The Germans appeared ready to stump up about DM8bn (pounds 2.7bn), but some US lawyers were holding out for DM36bn.

The principle of compensating the millions of people press-ganged into serving the Nazi war effort is no longer questioned. More than five decades after the war, 35 German companies have agreed to contribute to a foundation that will pay their former victims. The money will be distributed in conjunction with the Berlin government, though who the beneficiaries should be is still a matter of debate.

The Germans estimate that about 950,000 survivors -- Jews as well as citizens of the occupied countries -- are entitled to back pay for the work they carried out. Of these 233,000 are described as "slave workers"; people kept in concentration camps. The rest were "forced labourers", living in conditions not much less abysmal than those at Auschwitz.

At Volkswagen's plant in Wolfsburg, for example, captive workers' children were disposed of at the notorious "baby farm". But the "slaves", employed for instance by the chemical concern IG Farben, are certain to receive more in compensation than mere "forced labourers".

Volkswagen and Siemens have settled with individuals for about DM10,000 each in the past. By this yardstick, even before the extra price of "slave labour" is factored in, the total bill cannot be much less than DM10bn. A further discrepancy arises from the number of survivors entitled to compensation. Some Holocaust victims' organisations put their number at 2.4 million.

Otto Lambsdorff, the German chief negotiator, described the package on offer as "justified and dignified". But, encountering a storm of protest as he arrived in the US, he backed away from previous statements that this would be Germany's final offer. "The ball is in the court of the other side, and they will, and have to, respond," Mr Lambsdorff said.

The other side, though, is not as cohesive as the German team. It includes lawyers, several Jewish organisations, and the governments of nine countries. The lawyers' threat to sue has not cut much ice in the past, because the legal situation in the US is confused.

But what German companies have really feared is beginning to take shape, with an anti-German publicity campaign under way.

Before this week's negotiations, a number of organisations led by B'nai B'rith took out advertisements in The New York Times, attacking three German companies. "Design. Performance. Slave Labour." -- read the logo under the Mercedes emblem. The ad directed at the pharmaceutical giant Bayer ran a picture of Josef Mengele. At the German subsidiary of Ford, concentration camp inmates were depicted assembling V-2 engines.

Time for an amicable settlement, German companies realise, is running out.

Previous story: Anti-Jewish upsurge in Germany as US lawyers demand factories pay £20 billion compensation



[note to page 435] On the employment of Russian prisoners in German industry, see Göring's conference of Nov 7, 1941 (1193-PS), and Speer's unpublished office chronicle, Nov 21 and 29. Despite opposition from the army, the food minister, Darré, and the Party, who feared Bolshevik contamination of Germany, Hitler insisted on the immediate employment and proper nutrition of the Russian prisoners; Sauckel supported him, as did Backe. On Mar 22, 1942 Speer recorded the Führer's order:

"The Russians are to receive absolutely adequate nutrition and Sauckel is to ensure that the food is provided by Backe."

Moreover: "The Führer is surprised that the Russian civilians are still being treated like prisoners of war behind barbed wire. I [Speer] explain that this results from an order he issued. The Führer is aware of no such order."

Hitler's attitude is confirmed by Frau [Ursula] Backe's private diary on Apr 11. Backe assured Sauckel the Russians would get normal rations. "At the next conference Sauckel thanked Herbert for his help. Herbert's opinion tallies exactly with the Führer's, he said. Then he [Sauckel] announced that he wants to import five hundred thousand foreign girls as home helps! Herbert was shocked at this and wouldn't quiet down all day because of it -- how can such a thing be planned as though the Führer seriously desires it?"


March 30, 1943 For all foreign workers working in Germany the Ministry of Works has implemented a Workplace-Accident Insurance Act plus Insurance policies for the widow & family should the Foreign Worker die in a work-related accident.

May 1, 1943 Herr [Fritz] Sauckel (Plenipotentiary for Manpower) has instituted Log books for foreign workers to ensure that German laws covering Mother and Child protection are extended to all foreign workers.

August 21, 1943 Herr Mende (Central office in charge of German Workforce on the German front) confirms that the Reich is committed to the best and most humane treatment of foreign workers as possible and in all important points they are treated exactly the same as the German workers.

[Fritz Sauckel was hanged at Nuremberg in October 1946 as a war criminal.]

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