BERLIN (Aug. 18)
Shareholders of the firm that produced the gas used to killed millions in Nazi death camps have voted overwhelmingly to create a $1.6 million fund to compensate former slave laborers.
The money will be taken from the remaining assets of IG Farben, which was disbanded by the Allies after World War II.
The fund would pay out on the annual interest — about $160,000 — from the principle.
The decision came Wednesday following a stormy debate during which one former slave laborer was forcibly removed from the room, and several other speakers were silenced.
“It is positive that the firm’s liquidators have confessed their responsibility for the dealings of IG Farben in the Nazi era,” said Peter Heuss, who observed the closed proceedings in Frankfurt as a historian for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
“But it’s only a start, because the foundation is very small.”
Survivors groups said the fund would be far too small to compensate the 1,000 former IG Farben slave laborers who are still living and the heirs of those who died as slaves.
Some 150 protesters had gathered outside the shareholders meeting to oppose the plan.
The survivors’ group had argued for the complete liquidation of all of the firm’s assets — which currently are at least $15 million and maybe billions more — to be placed in the compensation fund.
Hans Frankenthal, 73, who had been permitted to speak on the floor, was removed after he began reading a 1944 IG Farben document that called for the severe punishment of a slave laborer at the Monowitz factory at Auschwitz. The laborer was later beaten to death.
Frankenthal was also a slave laborer at Monowitz.
According to Heuss, the meeting’s chairman, Ernst Krienke, asked Frankenthal to stop speaking when he brought out the letter. When Frankenthal continued, Krienke turned off his microphone and asked security agents to remove the man from the room.
“Frankenthal said there is blood on these shares,” Heuss said.
“There was no formal time limit, and he had spoken less than five minutes,” said Henry Mathes, who heads the Association of Critical Stockholders in Germany, a watchdog organization that attends company meetings on behalf of protesting shareholders. Mathes called the removal of Frankenthal an example of “IG Farben using force with a former slave worker.”
Later, Mathes and other members of the association were stopped from reading testimony from former IG Farben slave laborers.
Heuss said the firm’s liquidators have said they plan to add more money to the fund if they are able to recover billions of dollars that had been placed in a Swiss bank account before the end of the war.
“It’s like the hunter saying he will share the bear before the hunt has begun,” Heuss said.
He said there was no talk at the meeting of IG Farben joining the current talks for a compensation fund involving several German companies that employed slave laborers.
These talks are scheduled to continue next week.