During World War II, some 12 million people were forced to endure slave labor. Although the 1953 London Debt Agreement imposed a moratorium on slave labor claims, the 1989 reunification of Germany and two subsequent legal opinions effectively lifted the ban. As a result, at least 40 slave labor cases have been filed in U.S. courts.
In November of 1998, Volkswagen AG, a company with significant exposure in the slave-labor area, moved to establish a Humanitarian fund "for granting aid to former forced laborers" forced to work for Volkswagenwerk during WW II (1940-45).
KMPG Deutsche Treuhand-Gesellschraft AG is the fund administrator. Write: Postfach 55 03 50, 60402, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, or fax: +49 (69) 95 87-33 33 for a claims application.
Those requesting aid will be sent a "brief questionnaire," which will then be examined "in an unbureacratic, expeditious and swift manner." An additional 15 German companies are currently negotiating on the size of a compensation fund for slave laborers.
In July of 2000, the German government announced it would participate in the compensation of forced slave laborers by establishing a $5.2 billion fund paid for by the sale of shares in state-owned companies.
There are estimated to be between 1.5 million and 2.3 million eligible claimants. Payments are expected to range from $2,600 - $3,125 for laborers forced to work in German factories, while those held in concentration camps could receive $7,800.
Due to the number of large number of pending lawsuits and proposed settlements, Holocaust victims and heirs should use the following resources to keep abreast of developments:
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, 9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90035, is perhaps the best single source of information on recovery of Holocaust-era assets and claims related to legal settlements to which Holocaust survivors and their heirs may be entitled. A comprehensive web site is maintained at: www.wiesenthal.com
The Holocaust Claims Processing Office offers assistance in the recovery of assets deposited (including safe deposit boxes) in Swiss banks between 1/1/33 and 5/9/45; and moneys never paid in connection with insurance policies issued by European underwriters. It can also help track down looted art.
Claims Processing Office
Those whose property may have been confiscated between 1939 and 1945 by the UK Custodian for Enemy Property should check to see if compensation is available pursuant to a Payment Scheme set up in 1999 by the British Government. Go to: www.enemyproperty.gov.uk or contact: