LONDON (CNNfn) - Germany's largest pharmaceutical company, Schering, has admitted that it used slave labor during World War II but said it has not yet decided whether to join the fund established earlier this month to compensate victims of the Nazi holocaust.
The Berlin-based firm confirmed that it used around 400 forced laborers between 1942 and 1945, but stressed that none of the workers came from concentration camps.
The company's chief historian, Gert Wlasich, denied press reports he had ruled out Schering joining the Holocaust fund set up by 10 leading German companies Feb. 16. He told CNNfn the company had not yet decided whether it would contribute.
"We are watching developments with interest but have not yet decided whether to join the fund," he said. But Wlasich believes Schering has less of case to answer than many German companies.
He claimed Schering's slave labor force was treated better than others. "We tried to give the slave workers better living conditions than those at other companies."
Wlasich said as a result of the company's policy the Soviet army spared the factory's directors, after pleas from a number of the laborers. Many company bosses were summarily executed by Russian troops as they advance on Berlin.
He said that Schering had admitted to its use of forced labor over a decade ago. The company museum, which opened in 1987, has a number of exhibits relating to the Nazi era.
"We have spoken openly since the mid-1980s about Nazi times. We have never hidden anything, unlike the German banks and other big business," he said.
He also said not a single former slave worker had filed any claims against the company.
-- from staff writer Mark Odell