'These firms could not care less what happened to us'

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The Independent Online

Rudy Kennedy was a slave labourer for the chemical conglomerate IG Farben, the most notorious of the Nazi industrial combines. After Germany's defeat, many of its leading officials were convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg.

Rudy Kennedy was a slave labourer for the chemical conglomerate IG Farben, the most notorious of the Nazi industrial combines. After Germany's defeat, many of its leading officials were convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg.

IG Farben ran its own dedicated slave-labour camp at Auschwitz, known as Auschwitz III, or Monowitz. There, 30,000 slave labourers were worked to death in a vain attempt to manufacture artificial rubber, or Buna. Others, weakened by starvation and exhaustion, were sent to nearby Auschwitz II, or Birkenau, to be gassed with Zyklon B, on which IG Farben owned the patent, withshares in the manufacturing company, Degesch.

For years, IG Farben, like most of German industry, readily profited from the systematic murder and exploitation of Jews, Slavs, PoWs and other slave labourers across the Nazi network of concentration camps. It was a profitable synthesis, for which, until now, German industry, including household names such as BMW and Siemens, has never been fully called to account.

The agreement of a final settlement brings to a close decades of campaigning by survivors such as Mr Kennedy. "These firms have to take moral responsibility for what happened," he says. "They employed us under the most terrible conditions, and gave us food that would not sustain life. Whether it was IG Farben or Volkswagen, they could not have cared less about what happened to us."

Now living in London, Mr Kennedy is originally from the formerly German city of Rosenberg, now Olesno in Poland. The only one of his family to have survived the Holocaust, Mr Kennedy, now in his early seventies, spent two years as a slave labourer in Auschwitz before being transferred to the Dora camp, next to Buchenwald. There he worked on the V1 and V2 rockets launched by the Nazis against London, before being sent to Belsen, where he was liberated by the British army.

Holocaust survivors such as Mr Kennedy deny the German firms' claims that they were forced to take on slave labourers because they were co-opted into the Nazi war effort.

"It's nonsense to say that they didn't want to employ us," he says. "The head of IG Farben asked Himmler to build another factory."

After the war, IG Farben was broken up. But the onset of the Cold War and the West's desire to rebuild German industry meant many IG Farben officials were soon re-employed in its successor companies, after they had served their sentences for war crimes.

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