The industrial giant Daimler-Benz, which forced thousands of people into work programs to fuel the Nazi war effort, will pay nearly $12 million to the laborers and their families, the West German Red Cross said in a statement prepared for release today.
Heinz Galinski, chairman of the West German Jewish Council, on Saturday welcomed news of the payment but said the company should have made reparations years ago.
"To wait this long is a horrible betrayal of all those who suffered," Galinski said. "It comes too late for the thousands who have died. . . . "
The Red Cross said a total of 20 million marks, or $11.7 million, would be distributed to forced labor victims from the company. It was not immediately clear if the compensation would cover survivors.
Daimler-Benz, the largest industrial conglomerate in West Germany, joins other major German companies that have paid such reparations. It manufactures trucks, buses and Mercedes-Benz luxury automobiles.
The announcement followed a lengthy study commissioned by Daimler-Benz to determine the extent to which forced laborers were used in its plants during World War II.
According to a study released in 1987 by an independent historical research group, more than 46,000 forced laborers were being used in Daimler-Benz factories in 1944.
The West German government has paid about $48 billion in reparations to victims of the Nazis.