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
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
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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