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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/german/volkswagen/press/volkswagen-approves-fund

Archive/File: orgs/german/volkswagen/volkswagen-approves-fund
Last-Modified: 1998/09/12              

   BERLIN (September 11, 1998 09:55  a.m.  EDT ) -- Volkswagen approved a
$12 million fund on Friday to compensate former slave laborers forced by
the Nazis to work for the company during World War II.
      The automaker, which is facing lawsuits in the United States and
threats of others elsewhere, said it was "morally called upon" to "provide
humanitarian relief" to former forced laborers. But it added that it
believed it was under no legal obligation to do so.
     The first payments from the fund, to be administered by the accounting
firm KPMG, will be made before the end of the year, VW spokesman Klaus
Kocks said in a statement.
     A New York lawyer involved in one lawsuit against the automaker said
shortly before the announcement that an offer of "humanitarian aid" to
survivors would not be enough to fend off legal action.
     Lawyer Ed Fagan said VW should provide a list of slave laborers who
worked in the plants and acknowledge a legal debt to them.
     "What they keep doing is trying to confuse charity with a legal
obligation," said Fagan, who was traveling in Jerusalem. "These companies
have a legal obligation to pay the slaves they abused and killed.
     "Without producing those lists there is no settlement and there is no
agreement, and we will continue to attack them and make them pay in an
American court," he said.
     Like many German companies, Volkswagen maintains it has no legal
obligation to compensate former slave laborers, arguing they were forced on
it by the Nazis.
     But VW broke ranks with the bulk of German industry in July by
announcing it would set up a fund to give humanitarian aid to survivors.
     The automaker's supervisory board approved the details Friday.
     A statement issued after the meeting said Volkswagen is working on
setting up a council to determine the amount of individual payments. It
said fund administrators would announce soon where former forced laborers
can apply.
     Lawsuits and threatened lawsuits have raised the pressure on German
firms to address the claims of concentration camp inmates, mostly Jews,
forced to work in their factories.
     Some companies recently suggested they'd be willing to contribute to a
publicly administered fund, but Chancellor Helmut Kohl has rejected any
government involvement.
     German attorney Klaus von Muenchhausen threatened early this year to
file a lawsuit on behalf of 30 Hungarian Jews forced to work for
Volkswagen, but held off on those plans after VW announced it would set up
a fund.
  By PAUL GEITNER, Associated Press Writer        

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