WASHINGTON (Mar. 9)
No decision has yet been made by the U. S. Government with regard to the controversial issue of awarding a United States munitions contract to the West German arms works, Rheinmetall, which is charged with refusing to honor claims of Jewish survivors who worked for this firm as slave laborers under the Nazi regime, it was indicated here today. The Rheinmetall was formerly operated by the Nazi trust called Reichswerke Hermann Goering.
U.S. Army tests of the Rheinmetall-made cannons are still in progress and the Defense Department must review these tests prior to a final procurement contract decision, it was stated. However, the State Department has informed Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, that the Rheinmetall-made cannon “is the best system currently available to meet military requirements in the immediate time frame” and that “an urgent military requirement for this gun exists for use on armored vehicles. “
The State Department also informed Sen. Javits that it was advised of “the financial claims by slave laborers against Rheinmetall” and brought them to the attention of the U. C. Defense Department and the German Ministry of Defense, “which in turn discussed them with Rheinmetall. ” Assistant Secretary of State Douglas MacArthur, 2nd, said that the State Department has been in touch “with legal representatives interested in the matter.”
1, 000 CLAIMS OF FORMER SLAVE LABORERS INVOLVED, STATE DEPT. SAYS
Mr. MacArthur, in his formal letter to Sen. Javits, pointed out that the State Department under stands that “discussions are now going on between interested parties in Germany regarding possible steps toward a settlement. ” He said that “there may be as many as 1, 000 claims by former slave labor employes involved. “
“Many of these appear to derive from employment in plants which were in the Soviet zone in East Germany, ” the Assistant Secretary of State stated. “Exact information as to the number of claimants, the location of their wartime service is not known to the State Department. ” (Other State Department officials have been informally alleging that some of the Jewish victims of Nazi incarceration are making “exaggerated” claims for slave labor compensation from Rheinmetall.)
Assistant Secretary MacArthur conceded in his communication to Sen. Javits that “it appears that, of the five present principal officers of the Rheinmetall, three were members of the Nazi Party during World War II. Of these five officers, two, including one of the Nazi Party members, were plant directors of Rheinmetall Borsig Ag during the war; The degree of active involvement in Nazi Party activities by the three wartime members of the Nazi Party is not known, ” he added.
CONGRESSIONAL ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE ASKED TO HOLD HEARINGS
Rep. Leonard Farbstein, New York Democrat, today asked the House Armed Services Committee to hold hearings for action on his bill to prohibit purchase by the United States of arms from foreign firms which have used slave labor unless compensation has been made to victims or their heirs.
Rep. Farbstein said: “I am outraged that, today, a German company has the arrogance to maintain that the profits it earned from the blood and indignities of slave laborers are not stained. I will not have our Government be a party to this shameful and disgraceful situation; Our Government must have regard for fundamental decencies — and dealing with the Rheinmetall Co. of Dusseldorf I regard as indecent. “
The Congressman announced that, if the final appropriations bill fails to contain the prohibitory amendment, he would seek a floor fight; He asserted that “there must be no complicity on the part of our Government in excusing the bloody practices of the Nazis and their backers. “