News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
BRAMA, Jan. 5, 2000, 9:30am EST
|Ukrainian Forced/Slave Labor Class Action Litigation|
Slave/forced Labor Settlement Reached
Berlin, Germany – December 17, 1999
"I pay tribute to all those who were subjected to slave and forced labor under German rule and, in the name of the German people, beg forgiveness. We will not forget their suffering." With these words, the Federal President of Germany Johannes Rau solemnly addressed the closing negotiation session between representatives of forced labor and other victims of World War II and German industry at the Presidential Palace in Berlin. During the course of the 10 month long negotiations, it was evident that the German government desired that an agreement be reached before year’s end so that "moral closure could be achieved for Germany as the bloodiest century in Europe’s history came to a close.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State, M. Albright and Germany’s Foreign Minister, J. Fisher, announced the 10-billion DM settlement as they addressed the class action lawyers and the negotiating teams from Belarus, Czech Republic, Israel, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. The settlement package of 10 billion DM will be paid equally by sixty (60) German companies and the German government. This overall amount includes all claims emanating from World War II, including loss of property and insurance claims, medical experimentation and other wrongs claims, as well as slave and forced labor claims. The settlement amount also includes monies to be allocated for a "Future Fund" the purpose of which is to prevent the repeat of the atrocities of World War II.
However, although an agreement has been reached on the overall settlement amount, additional issues must be resolved before payments to the victims can begin. Firstly, the allocation of the settlement funds must be agreed upon between the various categories of claimants (slave/forced labor, loss of property, etc), as well as allocations within those categories. Secondly, the dismissal process of all of the class action cases must be initiated which process will require worldwide notification of the settlement and a subsequent claims period within which individuals can make the appropriate claims as victims. Thirdly, a distribution and audit mechanism must be put into place so that the claims can be efficiently and quickly paid. It is anticipated that payments will be processed through the existing Reconciliation Funds in all of the five (5) eastern European countries and a mechanism will be established to make payments to victims abroad. Lastly, the ten billion DM settlement must be appropriated and funded by the German industry and government. At a separate press conference, German Chancellor G. Schroeder, expressed the hope that the German Parliament will act expeditiously to adopt the appropriate legislation to fund the government portion of the settlement as quickly as possible so that payments to the aging victims can be made as soon as possible. Conservative estimates are the payments on an expedited basis can begin no earlier than the fall of 2000.
In the meantime, negotiations will continue between all of the claimant representatives and German industry so that the details of the allocations can be worked out, hopefully by the first week in February.
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