BERLIN (AP) _ German insurance companies pledged $250 million Tuesday to an industry fund aimed at protecting firms from lawsuits for their actions during the Nazi era.
All 463 members of the Association of German Insurance Companies will be contributing to the $5 billion fund _ the first time a business group in Germany has joined together to give money in the effort.
``We look forward to other associations following this very good example,″ said Wolfgang Gibowski, spokesman for the fund, who added that discussions are ongoing with other business groups.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the leader of Germany’s Jewish community, Paul Spiegel, have led calls for more companies to join the fund to help industry meet its $2.5 billion share. This past weekend, the leader of Germany’s Jewish community also urged more companies to contribute, saying most firms who profited from the use of Nazi-provided forced and slave labor had not yet pledged money.
Industry and government are splitting the fund 50-50. Before the insurance contribution, industry had collected more than $1.2 billion from about 1300 companies.
The fund is mainly aimed at compensating the victims of Nazi-era forced labor policies, mostly non-Jews from Eastern Europe who were made to work to help keep the German war machine running. Part of the fund is also aimed at resolving lingering issues concerning German companies’ activities during World War II.
The firms formed the foundation last year under pressure of class-action lawsuits in the United States. In exchange for the fund, they will receive legal protection backed by promises from the U.S. government.
In a statement, the insurance association said they were giving the money because the companies feel they have an obligation to help the goal of the industry foundation.