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Jewish Leader Urges Nazi Payments

April 16, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ The leader of Germany’s Jewish community Sunday urged that payment of compensation to Nazi-era forced and slave laborers be accelerated, charging that only a small part of German firms that used them during World War II have pledged to pay so far.

``That is the real scandal in the whole story,″ Paul Spiegel said in a Deutschlandfunk radio interview.

He appealed for payments to start soon, noting that most of the victims are old and ill. Even then, he said, the average former slave laborer would get only $1,500 from the planned $4.9 billion fund that the German government and industry agreed to set up last year.

``That is no more than symbolic recognition,″ said Spiegel, who heads the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

A spokesman for the planned fund said over the weekend that 1,250 companies have joined the fund, but have raised only about half the $2.45 billion German industry has pledged as its share. The government is putting up the other half of the amount.

Industry expects to have the money together by summer, spokesman Wolfgang Gibowski said, adding that firms were not dragging their feet.

``It will be very hard to get the money together, but somehow we’ll make it,″ he said on North German Radio.

Gibowski said each firm was being asked to contribute 0.1 percent of its most recent annual sales figure. ``That hurts companies that have hundreds of millions or a billion in sales quite a bit,″ he said. ``They could also do something else with that money.″

Several thousand German companies are believed to have used labor provided by those forced to work by the Nazis during World War II. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has appealed to all German businesses for money, even those that were founded after the war and thus were not involved in Nazi-era labor policies.

Parliament last Friday took up a bill establishing the compensation fund. The measure, backed by all parties, was expected to be passed before the body’s summer break with the aim of beginning payments this year.

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