|German Catholics and Slave Labor, September
Church agrees to pay war slaves
BERLIN -- The German Catholic Church was attacked for stinginess and
threatened with the law yesterday when it announced DM5m (£1.5m)
would be paid to people from Nazi-occupied countries who were forced to
work for the church.
Bishop Karl Lehmann, the head of the Catholic Church, said the money
would be made available for those who had been press-ganged into working
at convents, monasteries and on land owned by the Church.
He would not say how many people were involved, but some estimates put
the number of the church's former labourers still alive at several hundred.
Wolfgang Gibowski, spokeman for the Holocaust Fund set up to compensate
Nazi slave workers, described the DM5m as "a miserable sum". He said: "This
is a half-hearted reaction, intended to rid the church of this wretched
More than 2,000 German companies have pledged to contribute to the DM10bn
fund,which should start paying outin a few months. The Catholic Church
is the last big institution to have owned up to a practice routine in Nazi
Germany, and even now seems reluctant to be compared with companies that
worked many of their captive employees to death.
Unlike the Lutherans, who are giving DM10m to the Holocaust Fund, the
Catholics are not taking part. Bishop Lehmann argues that people forced
to work on the church's land without pay will not be covered by the fund's
provisions. Instead, the Catholicswouldfind their former labourers and
pay them separately.
Otto Lambsdorff, the government's chief negotiator for the Holocaust
Fund, said: "I don't know if this is very helpful, because the survivors
will not be reached." He was even more sceptical about a further DM5m earmarked
for "reconciliation work", to be distributed among the church's charities.
Some lawyers involved with the negotiations were outraged at the way
the Catholic Church had handled the matter. "People who take months to
make their minds up and then ignore the legal framework have no legal credibility,"
said a Munich lawyer, who added that he was considering legal action against
the Catholic Church.