FRANKFURT (Feb. 23)
In a dramatic shift of previous company policy, officials with I.G. Farben said the firm will be completely liquidated within the next three years and part of the proceeds will be used to set up a compensation fund for Holocaust survivors
The move comes nearly half a century after the Allies ordered the dissolution of the company that produced the Zyklon-B gas used in the gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps.
In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, the company’s liquidators said they could not yet attach a figure to the fund’s size.
But they did indicate that some $2.3 million could be set aside from the company’s liquidated assets to create the compensation fund and a separate research project on the company’s history.
In addition to manufacturing Zyklon-B gas, the pre-World War II chemical company also built a plant on the outskirts of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland to produce artificial rubber and synthetic gasoline.
Historians estimate that the company used at least 35,000 slave laborers at the plant, only 10,000 of whom survived the harsh working conditions.
The Allies broke up the company into smaller units after the war. But I.G. Farben claimed it needed a skeleton staff to wrap up company business-which it is still doing five decades later.
In the 1950s, the company gave small one-time compensation payments to some of the former slave laborers at the Auschwitz plant.
Holocaust survivors have frequently called on the company to shut down and pay compensation.
Annual meetings of the company in past years have been accompanied by protests from survivors and their supporters.
The company postponed its annual meeting three times this year because of threatened disturbances.
In a recent announcement that the meeting will be held March 25, the company said for the first time it wanted to set up a compensation fund for survivors.
A gathering last October in Frankfurt of more than 90 survivors of the I.G. Farben plant at Auschwitz received international media attention.
The survivors came from around the world to attend the 3-day gathering, sponsored by the Fritz Bauer Institute for Holocaust Research in Frankfurt.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the group issued a statement calling on German industry to acknowledge responsibility for its involvement in the crimes of the Nazi regime.
Earlier this month, faced with growing international pressures, 12 large German firms announced their intention to participate in a central compensation fund, to be administered by the German government, for previously uncompensated Nazi victims
The companies hope this action will resolve numerous class-action suits filed against them by Holocaust survivors in the United States.