Low Farben payments anger ex-slave laborers

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

The decision came Wednesday of last week following a stormy debate during which one former slave laborer was forcibly removed from the room, and several other speakers were silenced.

"It is positive that the firm's liquidators have confessed their responsibility for the dealings of Farben in the Nazi era," said Peter Heuss, who observed the closed proceedings in Frankfurt as a historian for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

"But it's only a start, because the foundation is very small."

Survivors groups said the fund would be far too small to compensate the 1,000 former Farben slave laborers who are still living and the heirs of those who died as slaves.

The survivors' group had argued for the complete liquidation of all of the firm's assets — which currently are at least $15 million and, as some argued, maybe billions more — to be placed in the compensation fund.

Hans Frankenthal, 73, who had been permitted to speak on the floor, was removed after he began reading a 1944 Farben document that called for the severe punishment of a slave laborer at the Monowitz factory at Auschwitz. The laborer was later beaten to death.

Frankenthal was also a slave laborer at Monowitz.

Ernst Krienke, the meeting's chairman, had asked Frankenthal to stop speaking when he brought out the letter, according to Heuss. When Frankenthal continued, Krienke turned off his microphone and asked security agents to remove the man from the room.

"There was no formal time limit, and he had spoken less than five minutes," said Henry Mathes, who heads the Association of Critical Stockholders in Germany, a watchdog organization that attends company meetings on behalf of protesting shareholders. Mathes called the removal of Frankenthal an example of "IG Farben using force with a former slave worker."

Later, Mathes and other members of the association were stopped from reading testimony from former Farben slave laborers.

Heuss said the firm's liquidators have said they plan to add more money to the fund if they are able to recover billions of dollars that were placed in a Swiss bank account before the end of the war.