|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement on Establishment of the German Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future"
Washington, D.C., October 20, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The United States and the Federal Republic of Germany ("Germany") are proud to have worked together, in close partnership, towards the establishment of the Foundation, "Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future" ("Foundation"). The establishment of the Foundation is a great and historic achievement, as it will provide a measure of justice to more than a million victims of the Nazi era. It represents a fulfillment of the United States' and Germany's 50 year effort to address the consequences of the Nazi era. The establishment of this Foundation will contribute substantially to U.S.-German efforts to create a stable and humane international community based on democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights. Continued cooperation between two of the world's strongest allies is crucial to the foreign policies of both countries and to the promotion of peace and prosperity in the world.
This statement explains why the establishment of the Foundation is in the foreign policy interests of the United States and why it would be in the foreign policy interests of the United States for the Foundation to be the exclusive forum and remedy for the resolution of all claims asserted against German companies arising out of the Nazi era and the Second World War.
The establishment of the Foundation will result in benefits for U.S.-German economic relations and the economic interests of the United States. German investment in the United States is responsible for more than 600,000 jobs. German corporations have helped create important industrial investments in several regions of the United States. The operations of more than 1800 American companies in Germany make an important contribution to both the German and American economies. Dismissal of the litigation involving Nazi-era claims against German companies will help to maintain this economic cooperation and increase the possibilities for further development of this cooperation. Therefore, it is in the foreign policy interests of the United States to have a resolution of these issues that is non-adversarial and non-confrontational, outside of litigation.
German-American cooperation has been exemplary throughout these discussions. Our two governments, represented by Deputy Treasury Secretary Eizenstat and Count Lambsdorff, have served as facilitators of this historic effort to reconcile the complex and painful results of the Nazi era and the Second World War. The cooperation between Germany and the United States and the strong U.S.-German relationship enabled the co-chairmen to resolve a series of very complex and difficult political issues during the negotiations. This cooperation has reflected the spirit of the close relationship that has developed between the United States and Germany during the past fifty years. Our ties to Germany are central to American interests in Europe. Germany has been a key partner in Allied efforts to renew NATO so that America and its European partners can effectively address the changed European security environment of the post Cold War era. Germany participated actively in NATO's Kosovo campaign and German and American troops serve side-by-side in Kosovo and Bosnia. The strong U.S.-German relationship provides a firm basis for increased U.S.-EU cooperation on a wide range of foreign policy issues. The establishment of this Foundation will strengthen these ties.
The Foundation will cover, under relaxed standards of proof, some one million victims, including those who worked for German companies now defunct or not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, including SS companies and companies owned by the German government. Indeed, the German legislation will permit the Reconciliation Foundations in Central and Eastern European countries to even pay forced agricultural workers, if they wish to do so. For these groups of people, the Foundation represents the only possible avenue for obtaining a measure of long-awaited justice.
The establishment of this Foundation will also serve as one of the high points in the United States' relationship with the Central and Eastern European Governments that participated in the negotiations leading up to the establishment of the Foundation. As a result of the close cooperation between the United States and the participating Central and Eastern European Governments, nearly one million residents of Central and Eastern Europe will be receiving a long-awaited and deserved measure of justice. One of the most important achievements of the Foundation will be to provide a measure of justice not only to Jewish victims of the Nazi era, but belated recognition and payments to these double victims of two of the 20th Century's worst evils -- Nazism and Communism.
Moreover, by bringing together the Central and Eastern European states and the State of Israel, the Foundation will begin a new relationship among nations and peoples who suffered so severely under Nazi terror. The cooperation among these states was reinvigorated, and was never more evident than, during the eighteen months of discussions concerning the German Foundation.
The establishment of the Foundation will significantly reduce the tensions surrounding a number of very sensitive issues. It will fund payments to victims of the Nazi era who otherwise would have to engage in continued litigation over the subject, without any certainty of recovery. The United States and German Governments would inevitably be drawn into ongoing debates among victims' representatives, as would the Governments of six Central and Eastern European countries and the State of Israel, which participated in the negotiations leading to the establishment of the Foundation. The vast majority of the survivors reside in these countries. The debates would likely be contentious and, in the United States, result in threats of boycotts, and political and legal action at the federal, state, and local levels against German companies and the German Government. This could then trigger retaliatory action not only by Germany, one of our most valued allies, but by the European Union as well. Merely the threat of sanctions and boycotts could have a chilling effect on our political and economic relations with Germany and Europe.
Finally, it is in the foreign policy interests of the United States to take steps to address the consequences of the Nazi era, to learn the lessons of, and teach the world about, this dark chapter in Germany's history and to seek to ensure that it never happens again. As all too recent history has shown us, e.g., in Bosnia and Kosovo, massive human rights violations and ethnic cleansing continue to occur and continue to necessitate United States involvement. In an effort to teach the world, not only about the atrocities of the Nazi era, but the threat posed by totalitarian, unlawful regimes, and tyranny, the Foundation has at its disposal over $300 million of the Foundation's capital, which will be dedicated, in part, to heighten understanding of the causes of the Holocaust and the Nazis' rise to power, as well as to help the heirs of deceased slave and forced laborers.
For all of the above reasons, and because the German Government asked the United States to work as partners with it in facilitating this historic initiative, from February 1999 until July 2000, the United States played a central role in facilitating discussions among the Governments of Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims, other victims' representatives, and German companies to establish this Foundation, which will provide funds for dignified payments to those who worked as private and public sector forced and slave laborers during the Nazi era who suffered at the hands of German companies during this period.
German companies and the German Government have both agreed to contribute DM 5 billion to establish this Foundation. In return, they seek and deserve legal peace for the acts of German companies arising out of the Nazi era and World War II. Our mutual interest in this regard is reflected by the Executive Agreement between our two governments. Moreover, President Clinton has determined that it would be in the United States' foreign policy interest for the Foundation to be the exclusive remedy for all claims against German companies arising out of the Nazi era and the Second World War.
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