Daimler-Benz Makes Payment to ‘Soothe’ Nazi Horrors
STUTTGART, West Germany (AP) _ The industrial giant Daimler-Benz, which forced people to work for the Nazi war effort, said Monday that its $11.7 million payment to victims is designed to help prevent similar injustices.
″We hope to make a contribution toward preventing the horrors of the past from being reeated,″ Daimler-Benz board chairman Edzard Reuter told reporters at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart.
″With this gesture, we hope to soothe the still painful scars (of the Nazi regime),″ said Reuter, whose family fled to Turkey after the Nazi takeover. Reuter’s father was a promiment Social Democrat, one of the major foes of the Nazis.
Like other German companies during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, Daimler-Benz used thousands of forced laborers to fuel its wartime production of engines and vehicles for the military. Many laborers died from ill-treatment or were later murdered in Nazi concentration camps.
The German Red Cross announced Daimler’s payments Friday. The announcement followed a study the company commissioned to determine the extent to which forced laborers worked in its plants nearly a half century ago.
Daimler-Benz makes buses and cars, including Mercedes-Benz luxury automobiles. Its many subsidiaries include a major aerospace manufacturer.
According to a study released in 1987 by an indepndent historical research group, more than 46,000 forced laborers were being used in Daimler-Benz factories in 1944.
The study, compiled by the Hamburg Foundation for 20th Century Social History, concluded that by the end of the war, half of the workers at the company’s factories were forced laborers.
The study detailed brutal work conditions and executions of workers - many from France and the Soviet Union - accused of sabotage. It also concluded that Daimler management conspired with Nazi leaders in the early 1930s to make the company Germany’s chief producer of military vehicles.
The amount of the Daimler-Benz payment and its timing drew immediate fire from survivors of the labor programs.
″The real tragedy is that 43 years after the end of the war, only a quarter of those who worked at Daimler are still alive,″ said Alfred Hausser, a spokesman for a Stuttgart-based group representing the interests of the former laborers.
″One can’t even begin to call this compensaton,″ Hausser said.
Daimler-Benz joins other major German companies that have paid reparations to former forced laborers and their families.
Government studies indicate that more than 8 million people worked against their will in factories during World War II.
Among them were people deported from occupied territories, prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates.
In 1986, the giant Flick conglomerate paid $2.9 million to its victims. Other West German firms, such as the giant Krupp concern, a major weapons producer during World War II, have also paid reparations.
In addition to the company payments, the West German government has so far paid $46.8 billion to Nazi concentration camp survivors, under the 1952 Luxembourg agreement signed between West Germany and the World Jewish Congress.
That figure is expected to reach $58.5 billion by the end of the century.