N.Y. attorney threatens to sue Volkswagen over slave laborers

FRANKFURT, Aug. 4 (JTA) — A class-action lawsuit may be filed against Volkswagen next month on behalf of former slave laborers forced to work for the company during World War II. Melvin Weiss, a New York-based lawyer who has filed lawsuits on behalf of other wartime slave laborers, told the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung earlier this week that the compensation fund announced recently for former slave laborers by the German auto manufacturer is insufficient. He claims that the company is only prepared to pay small sums to its former slave laborers. Volkswagen made its announcement in June, shortly after it became known that German lawyer Klaus von Muenchhausen planned to file a suit in German courts against the company on behalf of 30 clients living in Israel. Earlier this year, Weiss filed a suit in a U.S. court against Ford to press compensation claims from former slave laborers during WWII at a Ford subsidiary in the German town of Cologne. Weiss, who claims to represent Jewish and non-Jewish clients in numerous countries, said he plans to file more suits against German companies. “We want to file lawsuits against 10 to 15 companies — all the large enterprises that used slave labor.” It is unclear which, if any, of these cases will be accepted by U.S. courts. But German companies have said in the past that they fear the negative publicity that could result from such lawsuits. After Volkswagen announced it would pay limited compensation to former slave laborers, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany called on other German companies to make similar moves. The organization is also pressing for the resolution of claims against German insurance companies and banks that profited from Holocaust victims.

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