ROME, JAN. 12, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- The Church in Germany is asking bishops'
conferences in Europe to help it identify "Hitler's slaves" who were forced
to work for Catholic institutions during the Nazi regime.
About 7,000 people are believed to have worked for such institutions. They
staffed hospitals as well as orphanages and schools. Many of the latter were
converted into hospitals during World War II.
The laborers were among the 7.5 million people forced to work for the Reich,
reports last July revealed. On Aug. 29 the Church set up a $2 million fund,
part of it earmarked to help compensate survivors of the tragedy. The first
indemnifications were made last November. Caritas-Munich had received 50
requests for compensation, primarily from Poland.
With this gesture of indemnification, the Church in Germany hopes to be
forgiven by the people who were affected, officials said. In order to
"purify the memory," it is appealing to the Church elsewhere in Europe to
assist in identifying the survivors.
In a letter addressed to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian
bishops' conference, Bishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the German
episcopate, requested that this information be transmitted to parishes and
other ecclesial institutions.
Bishop Lehmann estimated that about 1,000 forced laborers have survived, the
majority being Russian, Polish and French prisoners of war or refugees
deported from Eastern Europe.
Cardinal Ruini expressed his appreciation for "this generous gesture, which
honors the German Church for her concern in favor of justice and
In the letter sent to European bishops, the German bishops' conference
admitted that the $2,000 amount destined for each worker does not fully take
into account "the time and duration of his employment in Catholic
Applications may be made to an office established by Caritas in Munich, not
only for those who were forced to work, but also for surviving spouses or
children of those workers who died after Feb. 15, 1999. If there are no
spouses or children, the amount may be divided equally among nephews and
nieces, or given to surviving siblings. If none of these make a claim, the
money would go to heirs listed in wills.
Requests must be addressed to Caritas-Munich at: Deutscher Caritasverband,
Hauptvertretung Munchen, Geschaftsstelle des Entschadigungsfonds,
Lessingstrasse 1 D-80336 Munchen. The telephone number is 0049/89/54497-0.
Forced labor must be evidenced by documents. The office will assist in
finding documents and information.
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