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"Slave Labor" in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

Payments Until 2000

Paymnts Since 2000

Bilateral Agreements and the Cold War (1956 - 1974)

At the suggestion of France eight Western European states filed diplomatic memos which were identical in wording and which were aimed at helping the victims of National Socialism in the respective countries to receive a compensation payment. With the aid of an expert commission a way which was acceptable by all parties involved was to be worked out. Indeed, the Federal Government could not exclude themselves in this initiative, but they sought separate negotiations with each of the eight resp. later eleven states. Between 1959 and 1964 eleven bilateral agreements were made in which one-off payments from Germany were agreed. These payments were to be redistributed by the beneficiary states according to the needs of the victims. A total amount of 876 million Deutschmark was provided. The Federal Government consistently emphasized the voluntariness of payments lacking any kind of legal obligation.

Between 1961 and 1974 bilateral agreements were concluded with four states but solely for those cases, where humans had been abused in medical experiments.

The lack of any supplementary arrangements with the Eastern European states was primarily due to the political situation. During the Cold War the last thing the West was willing to do was to enrich the Communist governed countries with compensation payments. On top of that, numerous NS victims in the Soviet states were generally suspected of having collaborated with the National Socialist regime and consequently were being detained in labour camps. Consequently, one could absolutely assume that any compensation payments would not reach their lawful recipient but would end up in the government’s treasury instead.

Furthermore, there were no reparation claims on the part of the Soviet Union anyway, so that Germany could not be blamed for neglecting their duty. The USSR ceased their reparation withdrawals from the GDR and expressed a renounce of reparations in view of the rebellion of 17th June without differentiating between any war damages as such and the particular misdoings of the National Socialists.

The GDR refused any legal succession of the German Reich persistently, so that any possible compensation payments to former forced labourers had never been taken into consideration. Only the NS victims of their own population received specific pensions to acknowledge their resistance against fascism, whereby Communists that had been persecuted politically were explicitly in favour. These payments were motivated by the idea of a reward for the (in best case Communist) opposition against the NS regime and not by the idea of meeting any legal claim for compensation or a morally founded rectification claim.

Apart from the Soviet Union the former war allies Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria had already waived any reparations as part of the Paris Peace Conference on 10th February 1947.