The industrial giant Daimler-Benz, which forced thousands of people into work programs to fuel the Nazi war effort, will pay nearly $12 million to the laborers and their families, the Red Cross said.
Heinz Galinski, chairman of the West German Jewish Council, on Saturday welcomed news of the payment but said the company should have made reparations years ago."To wait this long is a horrible betrayal of all those who suffered," Galinski said. "It comes too late for the thousands who have died in the meantime."
The Red Cross, in a telex statement Friday to the news media, said a total of 20 million marks, or $11.7 million, would be distributed to forced labor victims from the company.
The agency said the money would go to former forced laborers and to the families of people who died while in forced labor with Daimler-Benz.
Daimler-Benz, the largest industrial conglomerate in West Germany, joins other major German companies that have paid such reparations. It manufactures buses and automobiles, including the Mercedes-Benz, and its wide-ranging subsidiaries include a major aerospace manufacturer.
The announcement of Daimler-Benz's payments followed a lengthy study the company commissioned to determine the extent to which forced laborers were used in its plants during World War II.
Daimler-Benz had no immediate comment on the payment but scheduled a press conference Monday at its headquarters in Stuttgart and said details of the company study would be released then.
Company officials said the conference would focus on the "dark chapter of forced labor during the Nazi regime" at Daimler-Benz.
Like other German companies during Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, Daimler used forced laborers to help the Nazi effort. Thousands of forced workers died from ill-treatment or were murdered in Nazi concentration camps.
According to a study released in 1987 by an independent historical research group, more than 46,000 forced laborers were being used in Daimler-Benz factories in 1944.