News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
BRAMA, July 19, 2000, 10:00pm EDT
|Ukrainian Forced/Slave Labor Class Action Litigation|
Myroslaw Smorodsky, P.A.
A Partnership of Professional Corporations
counsellors at law
75 Union Ave., p.o.box 1705
Rutherford, New Jersey 07070-1705
fax: (201) 507-3970
Forced/Slave Labor Accord Signed
After Lenghty Negotiations
Berlin, July 17, 2000. After sometimes difficult and frustrating eighteen month long negotiations, the representatives of Five Central and East European countries [CEE] (Belarus, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine), Israel, Germany and the United States, and German Industry, as well as the legal representatives of former victims of Nazi persecution, finally signed a Settlement Agreement to compensate these victims for their suffering during World War II. The signing took place in a formal ceremony at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin. Such multilateral negotiations on issues relating to the Second World War have not occurred since the immediate post war era and mark the final and closing chapter regarding reparations for war crimes that occurred over half a century ago. In addition, this settlement is a very belated and symbolic recognition of the millions of victims from Central and Eastern Europe who were forcibly deported from their homeland and compelled to work against their will for the German war machine. In his closing remarks, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat acknowledged that it took over 55 years for the world to recognize these victims and for Germany to make an effort, although late and not fully compensatory, to address their suffering.
The settlement discussions were protracted for such a long time because of the multiplicity of parties with various objectives and goals, the complexity of the legal issues created by the existence of over 55 law suits filed nationwide, and the desire of Germany to achieve an all encompassing and conclusive settlement resulting in legal and moral peace. As such, unanimity had to be achieved in stages. The first accord was reached on December 17, 1999 in the waning hours of the 20th century when the overall cap of 10 billion DM was agreed upon. The second stage was reached on March 23 2000 when agreement on the allocation of the 10 billion DM among all the categories of victims was achieved. Since then, the negotiating parties addressed the third stage issues; the required legal structure needed as a basis of implementing the settlement. This accord was finally reached on July 17th after intensive last minute negotiations via international teleconferences and sometimes heated face-to-face discussions in Washington and Berlin.
The July 17th Agreement consists of three categories of documents. The first is the German legislation that was a prerequisite and had to be adopted by the German Parliament to fund the settlement and authorize the creation of the foundation that would oversee the implementation of the compensation program to victims. The German Parliament adopted the law on July 7, 2000. Second is the Executive Agreement between Germany and the United States of America outlining the limited steps and terms under which the US government would intervene in law suits to have them dismissed so as to achieve legal closure for German Industry. The third document was the Joint Statement outlining the terms of the settlement was signed by each government involved in the negotiations, by German Industry and by the class action lawyers and victim representative groups who participated in the settlement discussions. Ukrainian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, O. Maydannyk, signed the Joint Statement on behalf of Ukraine and Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq. signed the Joint Statement on behalf of Ukrainian Class Action victims.
However, additional procedural steps must be taken before payments to victims can begin. From the legal perspective, all 55 lawsuits must be consolidated into one court for swift judicial dismissal. German industry and government must provide the 10 billion DM funding of the compensation program. Mechanically, the parliament-approved German foundation, which will oversee the entire compensation program must be created, funded, manned and must begin its activities. A worldwide notification and registration reporting system must be implemented and information on victims must be gathered on the basis of to be published criteria. Payments to residents of Central and Eastern Europe will be processed through existing Reconciliation Foundations. Jewish claimants will be processed through the Jewish Claims Conference. Non-Jewish victims who live outside the CEE will be processed by the International Office on Migration, which in turn will subcontract some of the activities to non-governmental organizations within the Ukrainian, Polish and other ethnic communities.
Although an enormous amount of preparatory work still needs to be completed, it is anticipated that payments to victims begin late this year or early next year. As was reported earlier, slave laborers who were interned in concentration camps will receive up to 15,000 DM; forced laborers in industry up to 5,000 DM and it is anticipated that agricultural workers will receive about 1,000 DM. No exact figures are possible until the registration process is fully completed.
For further information, please call Myroslaw Smorodsky at the number listed above.
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