LOS ANGELES (Jan. 7)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center accused West Germany’s largest bank today of having benefitted from slave labor used by leading German industries during World War II, and now refuses to pay reparations to surviving Jewish claimants.
According to the Wiesenthal Center, the Deutsche Bank, whose chairman, Wilhelm Christian has stated flatly it will not help compensate Nazi-era slave laborers, played a prominent role in advancing the economic policies and goals of the Third Reich. The bank recently acquired the Flick group of companies which include Dynamit-Nobel, a major user of Jewish concentration camp inmates during World War II.
In a related development, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, dean and associate dean, respectively, of the Wiesenthal Center, sent a cable to Franz-Josef Strauss, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), a partner in the West German coalition government, demanding the “unequivocal censure of Hermann Fellner by you and the leadership of all political parties in Germany.”
Fellner, a spokesman on home affairs for the CSU’s Bundestag faction, created a furor this week when he remarked that the claims on Deutsche Bank “create the impression that Jews are quick to show up when money jingles in German cashboxes.”
The Wiesenthal Center officials told Strauss that Fellner’s comments were “typical of the language heard in the streets of Germany in the ’30s and ’40s and more in keeping with the tactics perfected by the Nazi propaganda minister (Joseph) Goebbels and… more appropriate for an official of the Nazi Party in 1936 than of a democratically elected one in 1986.”
Hier and Cooper urged Strauss to use his influence to get the Flick companies and the Deutsche Bank to respond to requests made by former slave laborers. They said the Wiesenthal Center joined the Central Council of Jews in West Germany and other Jewish organizations in urging the payment of compensation to surviving wartime slave laborers by Flick and Deutsche Bank.
The Center pointed out that the Flick corporation collaborated with Hitler and acquired Jewish companies confiscated by the Nazis in their “aryanization” program. It employed tens of thousands of Jews and other concentration camp inmates as slave laborers during the war.
Flick’s new parent company, Deutsche Bank, has been characterized by experts as the World War II economic equivalent of the Wehrmacht. In 1941 it was the principal executor of a $250 million loan that helped build the I.G. Farben rubber complex near the Auschwitz death camp and itself benefitted from the use of slave labor, the Wiesenthal Center charged.