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Germany: Farben to Create Slave Labor Fund

Associated Press
August 23rd, 2000

FRANKFURT, Germany -- IG Farben, the German chemical company that made poison gas for Nazi death camps, will set up a compensation fund for Nazi-era slave laborers within weeks, an official in charge of liquidating the once-great firm said Wednesday.

Once the world's largest chemical company, IG Farben was broken up in 1952 by the Allies, who ordered the company into liquidation. It remains largely as a trust to settle claims and lawsuits from the Nazi era. Dozens are still pending in German courts.

Volker Pollehn, the official in charge of dissolving IG Farben, said the fund would be started with an initial $228,000 in the coming weeks. The government has criticized IG Farben's decision not to participate in the $4.5 billion government-business fund to compensate those forced to work for Nazi firms and in slave labor camps.

IG Farben had an estimated 83,000 slave workers by 1944 at the Auschwitz complex in what is now Poland. Its subsidiary Degesch produced Zyklon B for Adolf Hitler's gas chambers.

Pollehn reiterated at the company's annual meeting in Frankfurt that the holding company would not join in the government-business fund because of legalities due to the liquidation. A spokesman for the government-business fund said it would cost IG Farben money and time to set up duplicate administrative structures to pay two funds.

A leading lawmaker from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats, Dieter Wiefelspuetz, called IG Farben's decision ''almost an affront'' and said not enough money was being put forward.

''The entire proceedings is really embarrassing,'' he told Handelsblatt newspaper. ''It's really regrettable if a company thinks it can get away in this manner.''

Pollehn said the IG Farben of today accepts responsibility for its past.

The company once provided great services in the chemical and pharmaceutical branches, he said, but ''was in a horrible manner jointly guilty in the enslavement, degradation and extermination of innocent people during the time of the Nazis.''

In the 1950s, IG Farben paid $16.4 million in compensation to Holocaust survivors.

The company set the compensation fund a year ago at an estimated $1.36 million - an amount then criticized by survivors and human rights groups who demanded much more. At the time trustees of the former conglomerate said the fund would be established by the end of 1999. Pollehn has blamed lawsuits and technicalities for slowing the process.

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