Negotiations to continue despite dismissal of slave labor suits

Tuesday, September 14th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Compensation negotiations with 16 German
companies that used Nazi slave labor will go forward despite the
dismissal of several related lawsuits, a top Treasury Department
official said Tuesday.

"The companies have assured us formally that they wish to
continue participating," Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart E.
Eizenstat told a hearing of the House Banking Committee.

Eizenstat said that while the companies want a legal conclusion,
they also have always viewed it as "primarily a moral issue."

In two separate rulings Monday, federal judges dismissed cases
against Ford Motor Co. and two German companies. But under
international negotiations being overseen by Eizenstat, German
industry and the German government are planning to set up two
foundations or funds to handle survivor claims -- a system Eizenstat
said would be faster and cover more people than pending litigation.

And he urged both the companies and attorneys for survivors to
compromise on a settlement amount, a figure on which he said they
remain "far apart."

"The German companies have time and again denied any legal
liability in U.S. courts, but have clearly indicated their moral
responsibility for the gross abuses inflicted on millions of forced
and slave laborers," Eizenstat said.

"It is now time that they make a proposal to settle the suits
in a fashion consistent with their moral responsibility," he said.

He declined to describe the amounts of money under negotiations
but said the two sides will have to "give considerably."

Attorneys for survivors at one time reportedly demanded $20
billion. German industry has offered $1.7 billion to compensate for
using Nazi camp inmates for slave labor during World War II.

"I hope that plaintiffs' attorneys are aware that the initial
monetary demands they have put forward in this negotiation are not
considered realistic by German industry or the German government,"
Eizenstat said.

"Those attorneys will need to show flexibility if these cases
are to be settled within the lifetimes of the survivors they
represent," he said.