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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/german/farben.ig/press/refuses-compensation-0895


Archive/File: pub/orgs/german/farben.ig/press/refuses-compensation-0895
Last-Modified: 1995/08/95

	FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- I.G. Farben, the chemical company that
enslaved prisoners of Nazi concentration camps in its factories
during World War II, Wednesday refused to compensate some 8,000
east European survivors.
	At a raucous shareholders meeting, the board decided instead to
ask the German government to compensate the survivors and count the
payments against government-held property the company claims in
eastern Germany.
	``The Holocaust isn't our problem, it's all of Germany's
problem,'' said Ernst C. Krienke, head of the board. ``We're just
the company that everyone hangs it on.''
	Some shareholders have been trying to force I.G. Farben and
three chemical giants created from its breakup -- BASF, Hoechst and
Bayer -- to do more to compensate the victims of the Holocaust.
BASF, Hoechst and Bayer argue they were founded as new independent
enterprises.
	Survivor groups see the very existence of I.G. Farben as an
insult and called the decision Wednesday a delay tactic. One
shareholder, Eduard Bernhard, stood up to demand the immediate
dissolution of the company before the start of the meeting.
	``I won't allow it, you blockhead,'' shouted Krienke.
	After that exchange, six young leftists stood up and shouted
``Down With Fascism!'' They were wrestled out of the hall by
private security guards as the shareholders yelled, ``Throw them
out!''
	Krienke said the company's first duties were to its shareholders
and creditors. In 1957 the company paid $8 million to the
U.S.-based Jewish Claims Conference, which compensated an estimated
10,000 western European, Israeli and U.S. Jews.
	It didn't pay eastern European Jews and non-Jewish victims,
including thousands of Poles. Krienke said that was because there
was no bilateral German treaty with the eastern states that
authorized such payments.
	I.G. Farben employed an estimated 350,000 prisoners at its
chemical factories during the war. Some 30,000 people died working
its factory at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
	Among other things, I.G. Farben made the Zyklon-B tablets the
Nazis used to gas camp inmates.
	The conglomerate was dismantled after the war but recreated in
the 1950s as a shell company to deal with lawsuits, reparations and
property claims.
	It was given new life by German unification, when it laid claim
to 58 square miles of property in former East Germany -- where it
was the largest single property owner in 1945.
	I.G. Farben's estimated 8,000 shareholders are hoping to cash in
on a settlement of the claims, which are expected to be tied up in
legal battles for years.
	About a dozen people holding signs denouncing the company stood
outside the Frankfurt Airport hotel where the shareholders meeting
was held Wednesday.
	Among them was Peter Gingold, a 79-year-old Jew whose family
died at Auschwitz. Gingold's sign read, ``My brother and sister
were murdered with poison gas from I.G. Farben.''
	``The existence of this company makes a mockery of its
victims,'' Gingold said. ``Their shares are stained with blood.''
	The newly approved restitution plan is vague, puts the burden of
responsibility onto German taxpayers and could take years to take
effect, Gingold said.
	``It's nothing more than a stalling tactic until the last
survivor dies,'' he said.
	I.G. Farben's current capital is only $21 million, said Krienke,
enough only to cover administration and the costs of various legal
battles.

	FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The SS was abolished, the Nazi brown
shirts too. But I.G. Farben, a company whose name evokes the
thousands it worked to death at Auschwitz, still exists, much to
the rage of its victims.
	An annual meeting Wednesday featured shouting matches between
the company's managers and several protesters, who demanded I.G.
Farben be liquidated immediately and the proceeds paid to surviving
slave laborers.
	Another dozen people demonstrated outside the meeting at a
Frankfurt airport hotel. Peter Gingold, a 79-year-old Jew whose
family died at Auschwitz, wore a sandwich board that read, ``My
brother and sister were murdered with poison gas from I.G.
Farben.''
	``The existence of this company makes a mockery of its
victims,'' said Gingold, who has protested at the company's annual
meetings for the past 10 years. ``Their shares are stained with
blood.''
	Many big German corporations have shown a willingness recently
to more frankly face their Nazi past. Deutsche Bank, Germany's
largest private bank, recently helped publish a history that
described the bank's role in stripping Jews of their property in
the 1930s. Hoechst chemicals pledged a large sum to help maintain
German Holocaust memorials.
	I.G. Farben's war-related factories included a notorious
synthetic rubber plant at Auschwitz where 30,000 people worked
until they died or were deemed unfit for work and sent to the gas
chambers. A subsidiary produced the Zyklon-B cyanide tablets used
to gas hundreds of thousands of concentration camp inmates.
	In 1953, I.G. Farben's assets were divided among Hoechst, BASF,
Bayer and other firms, and the company remains basically as a trust
to settle claims and lawsuits from the Nazi era.
	I.G. Farben managers say it has paid its debt to the victims and
that its first duty now is to creditors and stockholders. But
survivor groups see the continued existence of I.G. Farben -- 42
years after it was stripped of its assets -- as an insult.
	Many of the 350 shareholders at Wednesday's meeting shouted at
fellow shareholder Eduard Bernhard when he demanded the company's
dissolution.
	``I won't allow it, you blockhead,'' said Ernst C. Krienke, head
of the supervisory board.
	Six young leftists stood up and shouted ``Down With Fascism!''
and were wrestled out of the hall by private security guards as
some shareholders yelled, ``Throw them out!''
	Krienke pointed out that the company paid $8 million in 1957 to
the U.S.-based Jewish Claims Conference, which compensated an
estimated 10,000 western European, Israeli and U.S. Jews.
	It didn't pay eastern European Jews and non-Jewish victims,
including thousands of Poles. Krienke said that was because there
was no bilateral German treaty with the eastern states authorizing
such payments.
	About 8,000 claims have been filed, said Henry Mathews, a
shareholder who, like Bernhard and several others, bought a small
amount of Farben stock to be able to voice their objections at
stockholders' meetings.
	Krienke said the company is only worth $21 million and has no
cash for such payments.
	``The Holocaust isn't our problem, it's all of Germany's
problem,'' he said. ``We're just the company that everyone hangs it
on.''
	The board decided instead to ask the German government to
compensate the survivors and count the payments against some 58
square miles of land in eastern Germany that the company claims
belongs to it.
	Gingold and Mathews were skeptical, saying the plan was vague,
put the burden on taxpayers and would take too long.
	``It's nothing more than a stalling tactic until the last
survivor dies,'' Gingold said.
	Regaining all the company's former holdings in eastern Germany
would make I.G. Farben the largest property owner in Germany. That
is not going to happen, but recovery of even a few old claims in
Berlin could put money in the pockets of its 8,000 shareholders.
	Benno Hofmann, a 50-year-old stockholder, said he had cleared
about $14,000 in dividends from his 10,000 shares of I.G. Farben
stock and was gambling that the eastern claims would earn him more.
	``I can understand people getting emotional, but nobody's going
to strip me of stock I bought eight years ago,'' said Hofmann.
``This is a company that has some reputation problems, but I don't
see any taboo getting involved. The people running Farben now had
nothing to do with all that.''


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