Nazi links of German bank

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DEUTSCHE BANK AG, Germany's biggest bank, helped finance companies that built the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, a Deutsche Bank historian revealed yesterday.

Manfred Pohl, head of the bank's historical institute, said newly uncovered documents showed the bank had links with firms that built the camp where 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed in the Second World War.

It also had credit links to one company that made incineration units and funded another whose subsidiary made the Zyklon B gas used in the camp.

"On examination of credit records we determined that branches... had credit links to local companies which were active at the construction site... in Auschwitz." Pohl told a media briefing in Frankfurt.

The discovery comes at a critical time for Deutsche Bank, which faces compensation claims in the United States from Holocaust victims.

The dispute is casting a shadow over Deutsche's planned $10.1bn takeover of Bankers Trust. A Deutsche Bank spokesman at the briefing said the discovery caused the bank great consternation. But he declined to comment further, saying the bank was waiting for the outcome of further historical research.

In New York, the World Jewish Congress said that in the light of the disclosures it expected to meet German government officials and senior Deutsche officials in the next few days.

"Our hope is that the discussions will bring about sufficient progress to resolve Holocaust-era claims." Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, said.

The WJC has been considering whether to try to block the proposed Bankers Trust merger until Nazi-era claims are resolved. Steinberg said he hoped the meetings would lead to a resolution of the matter.