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WWII Survivors Sue German Drug Cos.

May 26, 1999

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A half-century later, twin sisters who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp say they clearly remember Dr. Joseph Mengele scrutinizing their naked bodies that he had subjected to gruesome and unscientific medical ``experiments.″

They have only recently learned, however, that German pharmaceutical companies participated in the tests with the notorious ``Angel of Death″ and profited from their pain, according to two class-action lawsuits they and others filed this month.

The lawsuits filed May 13 against Bayer AG, Hoechst AG and Schering AG are among the first in the nation linking German companies to Nazi medical experiments. The Associated Press learned of the lawsuits Tuesday. A similar class-action lawsuit against Bayer was filed in Indiana in February.

The three lawsuits are the latest filings in a recent wave of litigation by survivors of Nazi death camps or slave labor factories aimed at European banks, insurance companies and industrial firms.

Of the Newark suits, one is filed on behalf of U.S. citizens, the other for citizens of other nations. Each seeks unspecified damages for survivors it estimates number in the hundreds.

They accuse the companies of providing toxic chemicals to the Nazis for the ``experiments.″ Company personnel supervised the work and used information from those experiments to market products sold during and after the war, the lawsuits said.

Schering also participated in these experiments, but also supported experimental sterilization procedures on camp inmates, the lawsuit said.

The allegations stem from ``various documents that have become available for researching that were not available before,″ said Joseph D. Ament, a Chicago lawyer representing plaintiffs in the Newark cases.

All of the survivor lawsuits, many filed in U.S. District Court here, have been made possible by a 1991 international agreement settling German reparations to other nations, and thus allowing individuals to sue, said Burt Neuborne, a professor at New York University Law School who is among the lawyers pressing the Newark lawsuits.

Hoechst issued a statement that did not address the medical experimentation claims, but cited the company’s support of ``various organizations and projects dedicated to preserving the memory of the atrocities of the Nazi regime.″

Bayer spokesman Thomas Reinert in Leverkusen, Germany, said the company would not comment on the lawsuits at this time.

Schering spokesman Gert Wlasich said the company would examine the claims before commenting.

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