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More Swiss companies come forward on Nazi slave labour

A Nazi-era forced labourer at a German factory Keystone

As the deadline of August 25 looms for companies and public authorities to hand over data on Nazi-era forced labour and rejected refugees, several more Swiss firms have come forward to say they might have used slave labour.

The life sciences group, Novartis, said on Monday that one of its German subsidiaries had used 33 labourers from prison camps. It promised to hand over the information and contribute to a nearlySFr5 billion restitution fund set up in Germany by public and private entities.

A spokesman for the pharmaceutical giant, Roche, also said its German subsidiaries had employed a small number of prisoners during the Second World War. However, it said they had been paid the same salary as other employees and had the same working conditions.

“They were prisoners of war, they were not from concentration camps,” he said, adding that Roche was in contact with Swiss, German and Austrian authorities regarding the matter of compensation.

Engineering firm, ABB, said it would pay more than SFr4 million into the German fund, while last week Nestlé, and the aluminium producer, Algroup, said their German units had used some 2,500 forced labourers.

Swiss companies and state entities have another three and a half weeks to hand over data regarding slave labour, and refugees who were not allowed to enter Switzerland. If they do so, they will be included in a US compensation settlement for victims and be shielded from future litigation.

A list is currently being drawn up for distribution of some SFr2 billion paid into a fund by Swiss banks and insurers.

The foreign ministry says the government has so far traced the names of 4,000 refugees out of an estimated 25,000 turned away as they tried to flee from Nazi persecution into neutral Switzerland.

swissinfo and agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR