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Nazi-Era Slave Compensation Soon

March 21, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany’s chief negotiator in talks on Nazi-era forced and slave labor compensation said Tuesday that he is hopeful an agreement on how the funds will be distributed will be reached this week.

German government and industry have agreed to contribute equally to a $5 billion fund. Victims groups have challenged plans to divert some of the money for Holocaust education and for confiscated property, in addition to administrative costs and lawyers’ fees, leaving just $4 billion for victims.

``I expect that we will come to a final result on the distribution question in the next two days,″ Otto Lambsdorff told Berlin’s Inforadio. Talks were to continue Wednesday and Thursday in the German capital.

``I assume that in the end all concerned will understand that there will only be a certain amount for distribution and that the wishes that everyone has cannot be fulfilled,″ he said.

Germany has already reduced the education fund to $350 million from an initial $500 million, Lambsdorff said. Another $500 million will be allocated to a fund for payment of confiscated property. He said that sum was not negotiable.

Lambsdorff appealed to slave labor representatives from five central and eastern European countries to give up demands that a full $4.5 billion be allocated to victims.

German industry and the government agreed in December on the planned fund in part as a moral responsibility for using forced and slave laborers to keep the Nazis’ World War II industrial complex operating, but also to end labor lawsuits filed against the Germans in the United States.

Germany has paid some $60 billion in reparations to Jewish victims of the Holocaust since the war, but forced and slave laborers from eastern Europe were locked behind the Iron Curtain and unable to file for payments until communist borders began crumbling in 1989.

The forced laborers were those sent from outside Germany to work in German industry and other enterprises, while the slave laborers were placed in work-to-death conditions in Nazi concentration camps.

Estimates of the number of people who could benefit from the fund run as high as 2.3 million, mostly non-Jews from central and eastern Europe.

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