New German fund would compensate victims of Nazis

February 10, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The German government said yesterday that it had agreed in principle to establish a huge compensation fund, financed by the biggest names in German industry and banking, to compensate victims of Nazi horrors.

The proposal, announced here by a top aide of Germany's new chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, appears to be an effort to short-circuit a wave of lawsuits in U.S. courts against German companies that made use of slave labor and forced labor during World War II or profited from the seizure of assets belonging to Jews and other victims.

German officials have made it clear that they want to avoid the kind of international bruising that Switzerland suffered for nearly two years as the government fought off legal and diplomatic actions against Swiss banks.

Ultimately, the two largest banks in Switzerland reached a $1.25 billion settlement, which was formally signed last month.

At a news conference here yesterday, Schroeder's chief of staff, Bodo Hombach, said that the German government, major corporations, Jewish groups and lawyers representing Holocaust victims must determine the size of a fund to resolve outstanding claims against German companies.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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