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Among the lesser-known evils of World War II that is dealt with in "Lost Heritage" is the issue of forced labor, mostly from East European countries, by German industry at army-run factories. In a poignant section of the novel which has been scrupulously researched, the Polish fiancee of Peter Holveg Wieslawski is conscripted into such a camp at Siemenstadt.
At the beginning of 1999, the companies involved -- Siemens, Volkswagen, Krupp, Bayer, to name a few (and the German government) -- admitted the full extent of their culpability and showed a willingness to settle a wave of class action lawsuits from former Soviet-bloc countries.
In March of 2000, after a long and bitter series of negotiations, an agreement was reached between the German government and the lawyers representing survivors of forced labor camps and the mainly Jewish slave laborers in Nazi concentration camps. The total reparation amount agreed upon was $5 billion with $4 billion going directly to the survivors (each is expected to receive approximately $2500). The remainder is to be divided between German government Holocaust education programs and those people who lost property or money held by German banks and insurance companies.
Further compensation is being sought by forced laborers in German factories operated by American companies during the Nazi years. Among at least 50 American firms who had German subsidiaries, Ford, GM, Exxon-Mobil and Kodak have admitted benefiting from plants employing forced labor. It is not yet established how many American companies are willing to contribute to this reparation fund.