Compensation for WWII slave labourers receives further setback

Almost 56 years after the end of the Second World War, tens of 1000s of people in Central and Eastern Europe, forced to work as labourers in Nazi Germany, are still waiting for compensation. Last year, the German Parliament stepped up the compensation process, by deciding that 5 billion German marks were to be deposited in the German Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future Foundation, which would provide compensation to former slave labourers.

Half would be provided by the state, the rest by German companies that benefited from slave labour. Many of these companies however, face lawsuits calling on them to refund profits made from the use of forced labour. To prevent further demands for reparation payments after the 5 billion marks have been paid out, Germany has demanded that these lawsuits be dropped. But last week, a New York court ruled against this demand, saying that these companies had yet to pay their share. Dita Asiedu spoke to the Czech Republic's chief negotiator for WWII compensation, Jiri Sitler, and asked him for his reaction to Germany's demand:

"That is what was agreed on July 17th last year, that sufficient legal security for German companies would be provided. But German companies, I'm afraid, want much more than was in the agreement."

So what kind of security did the agreement say that German companies would be provided with?

"German companies were supposed to pay 5 billion German marks into the German foundation and additionally they were obliged to pay 100 million German marks in interest, and then legal security would have to be provided for them. This means that cases which were pending on July 17th 2000 had to be dismissed by American courts. The problem is that the German companies did not provide the foundation with the promised 5.1 billion German marks, the cases were not dismissed and additionally the companies say that this dismissal is insufficient anyway, because they also want cases which were raised in the year 2001 to be dismissed. But that was not part of the agreement."

So, what happens now? It's looking rather grim, is it really all in the hands of the German Parliament now?

"Everything is in the hands of the German Bundestag and I think that it should not just consult legal experts from the German industry, but also legal experts representing the survivors."

How much longer do you think will wartime forced labourers have to wait to be compensated?

"I'm afraid it's becoming a very serious problem because the German companies were not able to pay their money and also the legal security they want simply is not doable. So, I'm afraid that if the German Bundestag or German politics does not intervene then the agreement will not mean anything anymore."