Through the war economy, German enterprises were closely integrated into the National Socialist regime, and therefore also the severe injustices that it inflicted. National Socialist persecution and forced labour emanated from the state. Consequently, the Federal Republic of Germany, as the legal successor of the German Reich, has provided the vast majority of compensation to victims.
Forced labour was instituted in a variety of forms under a wide range of different working and living conditions. It was used in agriculture and in municipalities, but also in almost all areas of the private sector involved in the war economy.
Today, it is not a matter of providing compensation to victims for forced labour alone. Legal claims against German enterprises based on forced labour or damages due to persecution during the Nazi period are excluded. The consequences of the involvement of German enterprises in the National Socialist crimes cannot be resolved legally. Rather, German enterprises see a moral responsibility, especially where forced labour occurred under particularly harsh conditions, or where enterprises participated in racial discrimination against people being persecuted by the Nazi regime.
Many enterprises have reappraised their history and published their findings. In recent decades, many enterprises have also made substantial voluntarily financial resources available to alleviate the effects of past injustice.
At the end of this century, German enterprises are once again willing to make a gesture of reconciliation by establishing the humanitarian Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future”, which is intended to assist surviving former forced labourers and other victims of the Nazi regime who suffered under particularly harsh conditions.
The Foundation is a voluntary initiative of the German industry, independent of the extent to which individual enterprises where involved in the war economy. It is open and welcomes the accession of further enterprises that also undertake to contribute appropriate financial resources. The enterprises shall provide one-time payments to the Foundation.
An essential prerequisite for the provision of funds is that the enterprises enjoy comprehensive and lasting legal security, meaning that they are protected from legal action, and that there exists a realistic prospect of protection from applicable administrative and legislative measures against German enterprises.
Essential prerequisites that should pave the way for legal security for German enterprises have now been put in place: in Germany through the Foundation Act; in the U.S. though the agreement made between the German and United States governments, which obliges the U.S. government to submit a ‘Statement of Interest’ in legal actions against German enterprises regarding their involvement in National Socialist injustice, and to take appropriate measures at the state and local level.
The Foundation Initiative of the German Industry “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” began in February 1999. It pursues the aim of assisting surviving victims of forced labour and other victims of the Nazi regime who suffered under particularly harsh conditions. It will also address financial losses as well as all other cases of Nazi injustice related to German industry.
The member enterprises of the Foundation Initiative acknowledge the historical and moral responsibility of German industries. For them this is not about an admission of guilt, but rather about a sustainable act of reconciliation. That is why many enterprises are participating despite being first established in the post-war period. It is also why resources will be made available through the Foundation’s Future Fund to support international respect for human rights.
The Foundation’s capital of DM 10.1 billion (EUR 5.2 billion) was made available in equal amounts by the Foundation Initiative of the German Industry and by the German Federal Government. This joint effort will also ensure that the totality of German enterprises, including their foreign subsidiaries and parent companies, are protected from legal claims related to National Socialism, and that comprehensive and permanent legal security can exist in international competition.
A total of 4,760 enterprises have participated in the Foundation Initiative. Not all have agreed to be published in this list.
Subsidiaries are included in the membership of corporations.
As of 17 November 2000