April 11, 1995
Wartime slave workers seek cash from German firms
A group supporting wartime slave labourers urged Germany's three biggest chemical firms on Tuesday to pay compensation for survivors of work camps run by the IG Farben conglomerate.
They said BASF, Bayer and Hoechst were successors to IG Farben, which made poison gas for the Nazis, and called on them to admit their responsiblity for the thousands of deaths of workers in forced-labour plants.
``No other branch of industry was so closely linked with the Nazi regime as the chemical industry,'' said Philipp Mimkes, who initiated the campaign for companies to pay for upkeep of concentration camp memorials.
A BASF spokesman said his company denied responsiblity and had no intention of paying compensation. ``BASF is not the legal successor to IG Farben, so there is no reason (to pay),'' said spokesman Erdwig Meyer, adding the issue would be discussed at a shareholders' meeting next month.
In a letter to shareholders last week, BASF said IG Farben had paid 30 million marks in compensation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims in 1957 for Jews and non-Jews who had worked for IG Farben in Auschwitz. Bayer and Hoechst were not immediately available for comment.
Mimkes said he and other campaigners planned to address shareholders at the companies' annual general meetings. He did not know how many people had died working for IG Farben but said about 10,000 survivors were still alive and entitled to compensation.
IG Farben, formed in 1925 by the merger of BASF, Bayer, Hoechst and Cassella, flourished under the Hitler regime and was the world's fourth largest company until 1945. It built a chemicals plant next to Auschwitz concentration camp and used inmates as slave workers and human guinea-pigs for laboratory experiments and to test the effects of viruses, Mimkes told journalists.
Later it built its own concentration camp nearby called Monowitz, where 370,000 people were murdered, he said.
IG Farben was broken up by World War Two Allies in 1945 but still exists as a company under liquidation. Zyklon B gas, used for mass extermination in the death camp gas chambers, was produced by IG Farben, Mimkes said. ``The chemicals (sector) placed itself unconditionally at the service of inhumanity,'' he said.