News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
October 10, 1999
Germans offer 6 Billion Marks as compensation to WW II victims
Washington, DC – On October 7 1999, the last day of negotiations between German Industry and representatives of the victims of Nazi persecution, a compensation package of 6 Billion German Marks or $3.33 Billion US Dollars was offered by German Industry and the German government to the victims of Nazi persecution. The offer was met with stunned disbelief and outrage by the representatives of the various victims groups, their lawyers and Eastern European government representatives who unanimously agreed that the paltry offer was an insult to the survivors of the slave and forced labor camps of WW II. However, rather than walk out on the negotiations, they vowed to continue the negotiations and to publicly air the criminal wrongs from which the Germans seek "moral and legal closure".
During the course of the negotiations, it became evident that the initial German offer would be low especially since German industry recently met with success in two forced labor class action cases which were dismissed by the courts on the grounds that the US courts lacked jurisdiction over issues relating to WW II wrongs. Nevertheless, since the German representatives had continually stressed that they were negotiating with the victims only because of their strong sense of moral obligation, the victims' representatives anticipated the initial offer to be more than a token gesture. Unfortunately, the initial offer was far below anticipated levels of tokenism.
Moreover, the proposal’s allocation of funds between the various categories of victims made it clear that the Germans were also hoping to cause the national groups and the victims’ organizations to squabble among themselves publicly over allocation of settlement money. This attempt at divisiveness failed. All of the victims’ groups and plaintiff lawyers were unanimous in their condemnation of the settlement offer as totally unacceptable.
The breakdown of the German proposal is as follows: Of the 6 billion DM, 60% will be contributed by German industry and the remaining 40% by the government. 2.2 Billion DM will be allocated for slave laborers and an equal amount of 2.2 Billion DM for forced laborers. The balance of 1.6 Billion DM would be allocated to claims for other wrongs (medical experimentation, sterilization cases etc.), banking and insurance claims, aryanization of property, humanitarian foundations, and administration.
Although at first impression the sums offered seem substantial, if you take into consideration the number of slave and forced laborers alive today, the per capita effect is that a surviving slave laborer from a concentration camp would receive only 10,000 DM or $5,555 US dollars. [An approximate conversion factor of 1.8 DM to $1 US is used] According to the German proposal, a surviving forced industrial laborer will receive approximately 4,600 DM or $2,500 US. Unfortunately, in the forced labor category, the Germans are basing their offer on the number of forced laborers that worked only in the industrial sector and even that number is well below the numbers previously agreed upon by all the delegates for that category (forced industrial laborer).
The most disturbing aspect of the settlement offer was that the Germans made absolutely no provision for forced laborers who were employed in the agricultural sector. This was a total about face from the statements that were made by the German government in earlier negotiations. [The number of forced agricultural workers is estimated to be 580,000 of which 278,000 were from Ukraine alone.] During the earlier negotiations, the government representatives stated that a special German government foundation would be established to take such workers into consideration. Now, after discussing this matter with the Chancellor of Germany in September, the German negotiators took the position that under no circumstances would they even consider compensating forced laborers who were compelled to work in the agricultural sector.
In the opening plenary session of this round of negotiations, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, Hon. Anton Buteiko, made it abundantly clear that the issue of compensation for the agricultural workers was of paramount importance to Ukraine since one half of the forced laborers from Ukraine were deported against their will and compelled to work on German farms. In a separate working session with German industry and East European governments, Mr. Ihor Lushnikow, Chairman of the Ukrainian Reconciliation Fund, sternly but the diplomatically told the German representatives that under no circumstances would Ukraine nor any of the other Eastern European governments abandon the claims of their farm workers - they must be included in any compensation package. He also criticized the Germans for not using the statistics the have been previously agreed upon at the special experts’ sessions earlier this year. A special session of all victims’ organizations and German experts was held on September 1 in Florence, Italy. The purpose of this meeting was to agree upon the number of survivors in the various categories. Even though agreement was reached with the Germans as to these statistics, German industry negotiators ignored these numbers and utilized statistics that they reduced to minimize their contributions.
In addition, the issue of forced laborers living in the Diaspora was raised in this special session with German industry. This issue came as somewhat of a surprise to the Germans, and even the United States representatives, who were unaware of the potential number of claimants in the United States and Canada. The German representatives were advised by Myroslaw Smorodsky that a survey was in progress as to the number of Ukrainians and that the total number could be close to 50,000 if you include all Eastern European forced laborers who immigrated to the West after the war. It was agreed that this issue required further consideration in future negotiations. It was the position of the Ukrainian delegation that these individuals must be included in the development of the compensation package if "moral and legal closure" were to be achieved by the Germans.
The next round of negotiations will be held in Mid November in Germany.
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