For Immediate Release
FOR SLAVE AND FORCED LABOR BEGIN
- CLAIMS DEADLINE TO BE EXTENDED -
Forced Labor Compensation Update
Sixty years after the war and over two years of
negotiation and waiting, compensation payments have finally started to former
slave and forced laborers who had worked for
the German Third Reich during World War II.
The Polish American Congress has been key in making sure
that survivors Who have settled outside of Europe are included in the payments,
and is partnering with the IOM (International Organization for Migration), which
has been selected by the German Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and
Future" to process claims and issue payments.
On May 30, 2001 the German Bundestag declared "legal
closure" had been achieved (meaning no more law suits could be filed
against Germany for World War II reparations), and authorized the German
Foundation to transfer funds to the IOM and to the other six partner
organizations who are in charge of processing and paying claims of former slave
and forced laborers. The Polish
American Congress has a contractual agreement with the IOM to assist Polish
claimants in North American (Canada, USA and Caribbean).
The first payments in Poland were issued on June 28 and
focused mainly on those elderly survivors in their 80's. Poland expects to have
nearly 700,000 claimants. The payment process requires an audit committee
representing the German Foundation to review all claims processed before
authorizing payment. The Polish and Czech Foundations and the Jewish Claims
Conference have already been cleared to release 10,000 claims each. Visits by the audit committee are planned for the Ukrainian, Belarus and Russian Foundations as
well as the IOM during July.
The Polish American Congress, through the end of June,
has had nearly 7000 inquiries from claimants with more than 5000 claim forms
sent out. The first batch of
completed forms has already been submitted to IOM for processing and payment, to
be followed each week by additional batches of claims.
Payments to Polish survivors in the United States and Canada are expected
to start by the end of this summer.
On June 25th the IOM Steering Committee, which is
comprised of representative victim organizations, held its third meeting in
Geneva, Switzerland. Seventeen
participants attended, including Mr. Les Kuczynski, National Executive Director
of the Polish American Congress. The
discussions focused on IOM's claims processing strategy, its outreach program as
well as the establishment of an appeals process.
Although it is too early to consider appeals, the IOM
Steering Committee agreed that the appeals body should be small, be
representative and efficient and include the victims associations as members.
Mass media outreach will be further developed. In North American, for example,
not only the native languages of the claimants, but also French, in addition to
English, must be included for Canadian applicants.
Criticism was raised by the low exchange rate on the
Deutsche Mark. Addressing this concern, the IOM has been negotiating with a
single worldwide banking institution to lower transaction fees and will use the
exchange rate of the Euro, a more stable currency versus the weak DM. There was
also discussion at the meeting of somehow protecting the exchange rate with
futures contracts. Proof of Forced Labor Eligibility
Many questions have been raised by those who either have
lost their documentation or have little evidence of their eligibility.
Those applications will be sent by the IOM Geneva office in electronic
form to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany to be
searched in their archives. Claims that are unresolved on the basis of
insufficient or no evidence or no positive match at the ITS will then be sent in
electronic form to a central coordinating office in Germany for searching in
federal, state and municipal archives. For
claims still unresolved, IOM will seek relevant archives outside of Germany, or
will seek eyewitness affidavits.
Under the German Law, the IOM is also responsible for all
property claims worldwide filed by Jewish and non-Jewish victims outside of
Central Europe. A total of $200 million DM have been earmarked for compensation
of property loss suffered under the Third Reich.
Eligible for compensation are persons who suffered property loss with the
direct participation of German businesses and who have not participated in
previous German compensation or restitution programs.
IOM Claim forms and guidelines are available in the
Polish language. Victims who have any questions regarding the claims process
should contact the Polish American Congress by either toll free telephone
helpline: 1-866-480-1944 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The German Parliament has unanimously decided to extend
the filing deadline for all claims under the German Foundation Act until 31
December 2001. In addition, on
June 28 the German Parliament also determined that if a victim who filed
a claim dies, the surviving relatives, as determined by German Law, must file
with the claims organization within six months after the date of death.
Both amendments will enter into force once the Federal Council has given
its approval. This is expected to
take place on July 13, 2001.
Holocaust Victim Assets Program (Swiss Banks)
The US District Court of New York has designated the IOM
as one of the organizations responsible for the implementation of the Settlement
Agreement reached between Holocaust survivors (Jewish and non-Jewish) and Swiss
banks in 1999. The $1.25 billion
Settlement Fund will serve to compensate for deposits in Swiss banks owned by
Holocaust victims, but never returned to their heirs and to pay compensation to
former slave laborers. The following classes of claimants would be eligible:
- Slave Labor Class I - persons who were persecuted or
targeted for persecution as Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals or physically
or mentally handicapped and who performed slave labor.
- Slave Labor Class II - persons who performed slave
labor during the Nazi era for Swiss companies or their affiliates and do not
have to be targets as listed in Class I. A
list of 59 companies (a number of well-known industrial pharmaceutical and
chemical companies) shows that several had plants or affiliates in Poland, so
that working for one of these companies, one did not have to be deported to be
eligible. The deadline for filing in this class is September 30, 2001.
Austrian Forced Labor Compensation Program
This program includes similar categories as the German
Compensation program (Slave Labor, Forced Labor, Agriculture), with the
provision that claimants must have been deported to Austria.
Prepared by Les Kuczynski
National Executive Director, PAC
Coordinator, Forced Labor Compensation Program
Claim Forms and Assistance are available through the
Polish American Congress website: http://www.polamcon.org
Toll Free telephone no. 1-866-480-1944
e-mail address: email@example.com
The Polish American Congress and IOM perform this service
to the applicants without charging any fees or costs.