BONN, Germany (AP) _ Twenty-two former slave workers who toiled in an Auschwitz munitions factory under Nazi guard are not entitled to back wages from the German government, a Bonn court ruled today.

In a blow to thousands of other survivors of the Nazi forced labor system, Judge Heinz Sonnenberger said German laws exclude payment for Third Reich slave-laborers whom the government has already compensated for their imprisonment.

Although Germany has awarded more than $58 billion in reparations to Nazi victims, it has refused to honor wage claims by slave-workers, who were technically working for private companies.

The 22 plaintiffs were forced to work at the Union munitions factory while interned at the Auschwitz death camp from 1943-45. All plaintiffs were Jewish, and most were Polish citizens.

Each worked 12 hours a day, six days a week for periods ranging from 27 to 68 weeks.

Two of the Auschwitz survivors have died since the case opened in January 1992, although their families have pursued the claims on their behalf. The surviving plaintiffs, all women, are older than 70. Most live in Israel.

Compensation specifically for forced labor ``ultimately remains a political question'' for German legislators, Sonnenberger said.

``Even if the population would welcome compensation for all forced laborers, a court's hands are tied in the end,'' he said.

Klaus von Muenchhausen, a German university lecturer who helped bring the case, said he would appeal.

``The government's interest has been to let things take care of themselves naturally _ by death,'' charged Annekathrin Keller, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The Federal Constitutional Court, the nation's highest, ruled last year that non-German former slave-laborers could sue for compensation in Germany but sent the case back to the lower court.

About 7 million slave-laborers were forced to work in Nazi Germany during the war. Most were from Poland and the Soviet Union, and many were Jews.

Muenchhausen had hoped the 22 claims would increase pressure on the German government, opening the way for claims by an estimated 30,000 survivors of forced labor.

Some big German industrial firms, including Siemens and Mercedes-Benz, have paid reparations to former slave-laborers, usually after prolonged haggling with Jewish representatives.

But the government and industry are taking the view that they have paid enough.

Last month, Siemens boss Heinrich von Pierer rejected any further forced labor claims, despite criticism that a multinational giant with 1996 profits of $1.45 billion had money to spare.

Union, the munitions company that the claimants worked for, went bankrupt in 1994.