For Immediate Release



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.

Property Loss

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:

Deadline Extended

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:

Toll Free telephone no. 1-866-480-1944
e-mail address:

The Polish American Congress and IOM perform this service to the applicants without charging any fees or costs.