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Nazi Slave Labor Fund Talks Coming

January 15, 1999

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ A senior Polish official will travel to Germany next week for talks on a fund to compensate Poles forced to work as slave laborers by the Nazis.

Wieslaw Walendziak, Poland’s chief of staff, was invited by his German counterpart, Bodo Hombach, a Polish government spokesman said Friday. No date for the talks was given.

Poland has accused Germany of leaving it out of international talks on compensations for slave laborers, saying Germany was meeting with officials in the United States and Israel, but failed to answer a December request by Walendziak for talks.

More than 2.5 million Poles were among the 7 million prisoners forced into labor by the Nazis during Hitler’s rule. Experts estimate as many as 500,000 slave laborers are still alive.

In the former Eastern bloc nations, individuals were barred by the communist regimes from seeking payment. Poland agreed in 1953 not to seek World War II reparations, but it began pressing Germany for compensation in the late 1980s. Germany agreed in October 1991 to pay former slave laborers from Poland $300 each.

Advocates for Polish slave laborers argue that Nazi victims who lived in the former Eastern bloc should be compensated like their Western counterparts, who received payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars.

Germany’s new government, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, has pledged to administer a compensation fund at the request of German firms facing growing lawsuits in the United States for back payment of wages.

Plans for the fund stalled in early December because companies involved could not agree on an approach.

Schroeder’s chief of staff, Hombach, will travel to the United States and Israel this month to discuss the structure of the fund.

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