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More German Cos. May Join WWII Fund

September 17, 1999

BERLIN (AP) _ More than a dozen German companies may join a fund to compensate Nazi slave laborers, but will wait for next month’s negotiations in Washington before making a formal commitment, a fund spokesman said Friday.

Meanwhile, for the second time in less than a month, a labor court in Stuttgart ruled in favor of a former slave laborer and agreed with an automotive supply firm in southern Germany to pay him $7,975.

The 78-year-old Polish man was kidnapped at the age of 21 and forced to work for the company in southern Germany when it was producing munitions for the Nazis from November 1942 until April 1944, the daily Frankfurter Rundschau reported.

Lother Evers of the Association for Information and Advising of Nazi Victims, which supported the man’s case, confirmed the settlement in a statement.

Evers said the victory was significant and final because the company had agreed in 1984 to provide the man with an employment record for the time he worked at the company as part of his application for social security in Poland.

On Aug. 30, a labor court in Hamburg recommended that a 72-year-old Polish woman be paid $7,030 for having been forced by the Nazis to work as kitchen help for the city in 1943-45. The court could only recommend the payment because the woman had no paperwork to prove her employment. A final decision in that case is pending.

Those decisions, and moves by companies like Volkswagen and Siemens to find former slave laborers and make $5,300 out-of-court settlements, have preceded a government-sponsored plan for German industry to join in a fund to settle with former slave laborers.

The fund’s spokesman, Wolfgang Gibowski, said the number of companies in the fund, now 16, could rise to about 35 if the new firms take part. He said he hoped negotiations in October would lead to the companies formally joining the fund.

The key sticking point has been making sure that the companies that participate in the fund are protected from future lawsuits, Gibowski said. The fund was initially proposed under pressure from class-action suits in the United States.

The next round of talks, scheduled for early October in Washington, are to include Jewish groups, lawyers for victims, and the Israeli and central European governments.

Gibowski declined to name the companies still waiting to join the fund.

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