No payments to ex-slave laborers

  • 2002-07-04
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis, VILNIUS
The majority of Lithuanians who were forced into slave labor by the Nazis during World War II are ineligible for compensation payments, according to the Russian foundation that handles compensation cases.

Tatiana Sokolova, a representative of the Russia-based Foundation for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation, told reporters in Vilnius last week that German laws only provided compensations for prisoners of ghettos and people forced to work in industry.

Forced farm laborers - the largest number of surviving Lithuanian slave laborers - are ineligible for compensation.

Lithuania's Genocide and Resistance Research Center has registered 22,250 people claiming compensation from Berlin, 85 percent of whom were forced to work in Germany's agricultural sector.

"We need to get the German foundation's approval to pay money for agricultural workers to start mass payments in Lithuania," Sokolova said. "Many of these people were already adults during the war. Now they are elderly. It sounds cynical, but it seems they have very little chance to get compensation."

The Russian foundation manages the compensation claims of Lithuanian residents who suffered under the Nazis, a system that stems back to the Soviet era when Lithuania was under Moscow's control.

Lithuanian officials, including Jewish Community Director Emanuelis Zingeris, have petitioned German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to begin paying compensation directly to Lithuania, but Germany has opted to continue funneling the money through Russia.

Sokolova said former agricultural slave laborers in Belarus and Ukraine had received German compensation.

There are only 482 Lithuanians eligible for slave labor compensation paid through Russia, the genocide center said. All were prisoners of ghettos or concentration camps or forced industrial workers.

"The foundation is constantly bargaining with Germany to start the compensation payments for people who worked in agriculture," said Sergei Tukhachev, also of the Russian foundation.

Those claiming compensation have to complete applications and submit evidence - either from archives, photographs or witness testimony - by 2003.

Lithuanian residents were ship-ped to Germany to work in Nazi factories and elsewhere beginning in January 1942. Some 30,000 Lithua-nian citizens, including 10,000 Jewish-Lithuanians, were forced to work in concentration camps as well.

The Third Reich had around 7.6 million foreign slave workers from 20 countries in its employ.