Decision of the Board of Directors of the Foundation (content agreed with the Federal Ministry of Finance)

On the eligibility for payments of Western European forced labourers under the Foundation Act

During the National Socialist regime and the Second World War, millions of forced labourers were deployed in the German Reich and in the territories occupied by Germany, usually under inhumane conditions. In the preamble to the Foundation Act, the legislator therefore made the following commitment: 

that the National Socialist State inflicted severe injustice on slave labourers and forced labourers, through deportation, internment, exploitation which in some cases extended to destruction through labour, and through a large number of other human rights violations,
that German enterprises which participated in the National Socialist injustice bear a historic responsibility and must act accordingly,
that the enterprises which have come together in the German Economy Foundation Initiative have acknowledged this responsibility,
that the injustice committed and the human suffering it caused cannot be truly compensated by financial payments,
that the Act comes too late for those who lost their lives as victims of the National Socialist regime or have died in the meantime,
the German Bundestag acknowledges political and moral responsibility for the victims of National Socialism. The Bundestag intends to keep alive the memory of the injustice inflicted on the victims for coming generations as well.
With this Act, however, the legislator also made clear that, in recognition of the injustice inflicted and in acknowledgement of the suffering of all the victims of forced labour, it intended to differentiate when approving humanitarian payments under the Foundation Act, in particular according to the severity of the forced labour deployment and according to how the victims were treated by the National Socialist regime in other respects.

Against this background, the legislator made legal distinctions in the Foundation Act, in particular between forced labourers from the Slavonic countries and forced labourers from Western countries. The Federal Foundation and the Federal Government hold the following joint position with regard to the correct interpretation of the Foundation Act:

1. Payments under the Act on the Creation of a Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" are not compensation payments for forced labour performed in the Third Reich. The legislator intended a humanitarian payment to be granted primarily for the benefit of those groups of victims "who at the time of the National Socialist regime suffered a much harsher fate than average" (official reasoning accompanying the draft law (Bundestag-Drucksache 14/3206) or who have so far been able to receive no German compensation payments at all or only minimal payments due to the Cold War and who are therefore particularly dependent on a humanitarian payment.
Extremely harsh living conditions resulting from war (air raids, irregular and poor nutrition, accommodation in poor and very overcrowded collective accommodation, atrocious working conditions, poor pay etc.) are not in themselves deemed to constitute a much harsher fate than average; nor is merely being forcibly taken (deported) to the German Reich, but rather the acts of terror specifically decreed by the National Socialists for racial or similar reasons. 

2. In view of the especially harsh conditions of confinement for detainees in concentration camps and for forced labourers ("slave labourers") who were deprived of their rights for racial reasons and threatened with extermination, the Act provides for a one-off payment of up to DM 15,000 under Section 11 (1) sentence 1 item 1 for persons who were held in concentration camps and ghettos and were forced to work.

3. The Federal Foundation has, in accordance with Section 11 (1) sentence 1 item 1 in conjunction with Section 12 (1), established that there were a number of "other places of confinement" to which the characteristics of inhumane conditions of confinement, insufficient nutrition and a lack of medical care applied. The work camps (Arbeitserziehungslager) may also fall under this category in special cases. For persons who were held in these "other places of confinement" and were deployed to perform forced labour, the partner organizations may establish eligibility to payments of between DM 5,000 and DM 15,000, which may take into account the length of time the person was confined.

4. The Act further provides under Section 11 (1) sentence 1 item 2 for one-off humanitarian payments to be made to all those forced labourers who were forced to work under conditions of imprisonment, conditions resembling imprisonment or similar extremely harsh living conditions.
The camps where conditions of imprisonment prevailed include, for example, the punishment camps in companies included in the International Tracing Service's list of places of confine-ment as well as closed camps for eastern workers (Ostarbeiter), which those confined were permitted to leave only in order to work and only with a guard or German escort.
The official reasoning accompanying the statute deems conditions "resembling imprison-ment" to be long-term isolation from the outside world (ban on leaving the place of con-finement), i.e. significant restrictions on freedom of movement which were strictly and con-tinuously monitored by the authorities, as well as routine and permanent restrictions on one's conduct (controls, raids and roll-calls). These conditions are not fulfilled merely by dint of deportation and the performance of forced labour alone, but were generally an end in them-selves or carried out for the purpose of punishment, as was the case, for example, with racial discrimination.
The "similar extremely harsh living conditions" are similar circumstances which have to be interpreted in such a way that they relate to the living conditions of forced labourers of Slavonic descent, bearing in mind the official reasoning accompanying the statute and its general aims as outlined above. Under National Socialism, these persons were subjected to particular discrimination and specific National Socialist regulations threatened them with draconian punishments according to which they were subjected to conditions resembling imprisonment or similar extremely harsh living conditions. Thus, these persons were subjected to a manifest threat to life and limb and extreme restrictions of their freedom of movement even in cases where they were not held in conditions of imprisonment. This found expression in the fact that they were obliged to wear an identifying emblem, that there was a special criminal law for Ostarbeiter, as well as wage deductions and low food rations. The official reasoning accompanying the statute (Bundestags-Drucksache 14/3758) states: "In addition to those who were subjected to racial persecution (Jews, Sinti and Roma) persons of Slavonic descent in particular, who were made to perform forced labour, were also extremely restricted in their conduct on account of particularly discriminatory regulations of the National Socialist regime. "Similar extremely harsh living conditions" within the meaning of Section 11 (1) sentence 1 item 2 therefore primarily refers to such conditions arising from the particular discrimination against forced labourers of Slavonic descent by specific National Socialist regulations (including the fact that the National Socialist state is known to have had its own internal hierarchy of discrimination, distinguishing for example between different groups of Ostarbeiter: Polish, Slovene, Slovak, Yugoslav and Czech forced labourers)."

5. In accordance with the above, former forced labourers from Western European countries may receive humanitarian payments under the first category provided for by the Act if they had to perform forced labour in a concentration camp, a ghetto or a recognized "other place of confinement". Also within the framework of the second category, former forced labourers from Western Europe can receive a payment if they were deported and imprisoned elsewhere. Eligibility to payment is also deemed to exist even if the condition of imprisonment was only fulfilled temporarily.
Western European forced labourers do not otherwise fulfil the criterion of "similar extremely harsh living conditions". It is also to be presumed that they were not accommodated under "conditions resembling imprisonment". This presumption can only be refuted by submitting official documents that prove that accommodation in a camp objectively resembled imprison-ment.
Former forced labourers from Slavonic countries who were resident in a Western European (or another Western) country on 16 February 1999 (the qualifying date under the Foundation Act), are subject to the presumption rules and special evidentiary conditions that apply to forced labourers from the Slavonic countries.