Apr 1, 2011
Journal of Contemporary History
Over 50 years after the end of the second world war, the German foundation ‘Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future’ was established in order to guarantee a collective compensation of victims of slave and forced labour and ‘aryanization’ in the nazi era. The Foundation was frequently praised as a final sign of the historical and moral responsibility of the German state and economy for ‘nazi wrongs’. Some survivors’ organizations and other participants of the international negotiations on the compensation settlement, in contrast, judged the Foundation as a late and hard-won compromise, which had little relation to the unpaid wages and the misery and repression suffered. In order to evaluate the Foundation as an element of the German compensation politics towards victims of National Socialism, it is necessary to take a close look at its genesis and conception. This article therefore explores which factors determined the international negotiations on a collective compensation settlement for former slave and forced labourers at the end of the twentieth century, and to what extent the survivors’ claims for recognition of the crimes committed, and a comprehensive and adequate compensation were realized. It will be shown that the Foundation was not the result of a voluntary and ‘humanitarian’ initiative of the German economy and government and that numerous victims’ groups were excluded from the modest payments made to especially harshly damaged survivors.