Essays in Contemporary History
A CASE OF COMPENSATION
4.1 From Forced Labor in Nazi Germany to the “Re- membrance, Responsibility and Future” Sixty years after the fact In July 2000, the German Bundestag enacted a law establishing the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” in implementation of a plan to com- pensate persons who were exploited as forced laborers by the Nazi regime. Sixty years had passed since the practice of impressing foreigners into the wartime workforce first began and nine out of ten of the persons concerned were no longer alive. An agreement on the payment of compensation to former forced laborers was finally concluded on December 17, 1999, just two weeks before the end of the 20th century, when President Johannes Rau made a statement to an international audience at Bellevue Palace in Berlin (see Annex, p. 311). Now that the process of getting the compensation payments to their recipi- ents has essentially been completed and initial attempts are being made to record this chapter for posterity, we need to do more than just write up an after-the-fact report on the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future.” We need to go back a bit further and try to find answers, at least in general terms, to three questions that arise on closer examination of our subject matter. Question number one: What was behind the use of foreign civilian workers and the exploitation of detainees in concentration camps for the German war- time economy? What were the reasons for the growing amount of forced labor, a phenomenon that eventually...
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