Bonn (taz) - Shareholders of German chemical companies and former concentration camp prisoners are demanding compensation for forced laborers who had to work for the IG Farben chemical cartel during the Nazi era. A sum of 100,000 marks is appropriate, said the representatives of ten organizations that have joined together to form a sponsoring group yesterday.
To this day, “IG Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft”, which has had the addition “in liquidation” since 1955, and its successors, BASF, Bayer and Hoechst, refuse to pay reparations to the victims and their families. Today - 50 years later - 10,000 former forced laborers are still living, estimates the association "IG Farben in Auschwitz". So far, only Jewish forced laborers in western countries have received compensation between 2,500 and 5,000 marks, said Katja Leyrer. Jewish prisoners from Eastern countries, however, came away empty-handed.

Since April 1941, IG Farben has had its own concentration camp seven kilometers from the main camp in Monowitz. Its prisoners had to manufacture synthetic rubber under the most difficult conditions. Exhausted prisoners were selected at the morning roll call and driven into the gas. 120,000 people died in this concentration camp, Auschwitz III, by the beginning of 1945. Prisoners from the Schwarzheide concentration camp worked in lignite production for BASF.

Yesterday, Jürgen Rochlitz, member of the Green Party and spokesman for the Alternative BASF shareholders, asked the BASF Group for a foundation that is to be endowed with 50 million marks. This sum should also be used to finance memorial sites. In the early 1990s, for example, BASF bought back the plant in Schwarzheide and destroyed the remains of gas chambers and crematoria during construction, according to Rochlitz. Memory work is necessary. As part of a nationwide “Never Again” campaign, demonstrations and discussions are planned to encourage chemical companies to pay compensation.MYRIAM SCHÖNECKER

Survivors of death

Conference at the place of a thousand poisons

The first environmental conference in Bitterfeld begins today / The focus is on water and soil contamination / Most examined district in Germany / Desolate economic situation  ■ By Bettina Markmeyer

Bitterfeld (taz) - three days of data and facts and at the end the horror tour: that is the program of the first Bitterfeld environmental conference, which begins today in Bitterfeld's neighboring town Wolfen. The district office of the chemical district invites you to a mammoth program with almost fifty lectures, in which everything is to be packed on the table that scientists have determined in the last two years about the contamination of the region: about the arsenic and mercury poisoning of the Mulde floodplains to the terrifying composition of the district garbage dump to environmental diseases of the population.
Once again, Federal Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer will be there today to greet the more than 300 conference participants. On Saturday, if you want, you can take a look at the ecological decline of the chemical region at selected locations: excursions lead to the gigantic opencast mineGoitsche in the east of Bitterfeld and on the banks of the “Silbersee” in Wolfen, where Jane Fonda has already shed tears over the ecological misery.

The plan for an environmental conference in Bitterfeld of all places was hatched a year ago in the district office of the chemical district. Those who have to live in the middle of the dirt now want to take stock. Because the horror reports about the poisoning of Bitterfeld had at least one positive effect: the district has been examined like no other in Germany in the last two years. Not only demolition and recycling companies have been bustling around the ailing industrial site of Bitterfeld since the fall of the Wall, but also lots of environmental analysts from East and West. The main focus of the environmental conference will be on water pollution and the results of studies on large-scale soil contamination. In particular, the contaminated sites in the district, estimated at three hundred to over a thousand, are on the agenda.

The situation in the chemical region is desolate not only ecologically, but also economically. Of the 17,000 employees at Chemie AG, 7,200 still had an employment contract at the beginning of this year; Out of the original 13,000, only around 3,000 people now work at the Wolfener Filmfabrik. It doesn't look any better in open-cast lignite mining. All environmental relief since the fall of the Wall has been due to the closure of operations. The ecological rehabilitation of the battered region, promised many times by West German politicians, has not yet started anywhere.

All the greater in Bitterfeld is the hope that the conference, which will provide a database on the poisoning of a region that is unique in Germany, will increase the pressure to clean up. Against this background, the citizens' forum on Thursday evening, where residents can get information about the state of their region from the scientists, should be particularly exciting. Motto of the event: "Now ask the questions for which you would have come to Bautzen earlier!"

Conference at the place of a thousand p…