Swiss tobacco company used slave labour in Nazi Germany

The Swiss tobacco company, Villiger Söhne, has admitted employing two French prisoners of war as forced labourers at its Munich factory during the Second World War.

This content was published on August 5, 2000 - 17:14

The owner of the company, Heinrich Villiger, confirmed a report in the "Neue Luzerner Zeitung" saying that the tobacco manufacturers used slave labour.

Villiger said he intends to inform the United States district court judge, Edward Korman, who urged Swiss companies which benefited from slave labour to come forward or face the threat of legal action. Korman suggested any such companies could join a SFr2 billion global Holocaust settlement already approved by Switzerland's two biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse.

Although Villiger is willing to admit to his company's Nazi era history, he is however not able to hand over any files as evidence as they were all destroyed in an air raid on Munich in 1943.

So far it is not yet clear whether Villiger Söhne will join the Swiss deal involving UBS and Credit Suisse or whether they will opt for a fund set up by German industry for the compensation of forced labourers.

"The board of directors will decide in the next few days," Villiger said. He added: "Personally speaking, I would prefer the former solution." The directors would also need to decide whether the company would at all make a financial contribution.

swissinfo with agencies

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