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On Wednesday May 30, 2001, German lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to remove the final legal obstacle to free a $4.5 billion fund to begin to compensate over 1.5 million survivors of Nazi slave labor camps. Germany has already paid over $60 billion in restitution to victims of the Nazis, but this is the first time that slave labor has been specifically included. German companies have long admitted they used slave labor during the Nazi regime but insist they did so only because they'd been pressured by the Nazis. However, 6,300 German companies have already pledged contributions to the industry fund drive, which was started three years ago to stave off lawsuits from American firms against some of Germany's biggest manufacturers including Volkswagen, BMW, and Dailmer-Benz for their participation in slave labor in the earlier half of the 20th century. The plan for compensation calls for two categories of slave labor: $6,600 will be given to those forced to work under life-threatening conditions including concentration camps, and $2,200 will be given to the victims who were forced to work under "less onerous conditions." While these payment are seen as a merely symbolic gesture, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder explained that the compensation "sends a signal that Germany is fully conscious of the terrible crimes of its past, and will remain so."
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