WWII Slave Laborers To Sue VW
BERLIN (AP) _ Thirty former concentration camp laborers plan to sue Volkswagen for back wages after failing to reach a settlement with the automaker, their German representative said Friday.
Klaus von Muenchhausen, a Bremen-based lawyer who is involved in several similar cases, said the plaintiffs were all Hungarian Jews who are now in their 70s.
As teen-agers, they had been sent from Auschwitz to the VW factory in Wolfsburg to perform slave labor in armaments production in 1944-45, he said.
Von Muenchhausen said he decided to take VW to court after receiving a letter from the company saying the firm had no intention of making individual wage payments to former slave laborers.
He quoted VW spokesman Klaus Kocks as saying on German television June 4 that it was impossible to determine what a fair payment would be, and VW would instead donate money to east European countries to fight fascism there.
A VW spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Some large German industrial firms, including Siemens and Mercedes-Benz, voluntarily paid reparations to former slave laborers after the war, but those living behind the Iron Curtain were unable to apply.
Most firms have resisted calls to make new payments to eastern Europeans, claiming it is the federal government’s responsibility.
Bonn has paid more than $58 billion in reparations to Nazi victims for items such as health damage and interment in camps. But it refuses to accept individual wage claims by slave workers, who were technically working for private companies.
A German court opened a loophole in the reparations law last year, to allow East Europeans to apply for imprisonment and health compensation even though the deadline expired in 1965.