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Germany

Catholic Church Reveals Extent of Forced Labor

The Catholic Church has issued a list of 5,900 people who were forced by the Nazis to work as gardeners, grave-diggers and hospital orderlies at Catholic facilities in Germany during World War II.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann

Cardinal Karl Lehmann said the Church would continue facing the burden of history

The German church has already paid 1.5 million euros ($2.4 million) in compensation to 587 survivors since their ordeal was made public several years ago.

During the Nazi era, huge numbers of Eastern Europeans were forced to do factory or farm work at low pay, replacing millions of men conscripted into Hitler's army. Employers that are still in existence today have contributed to compensation trusts.

The church decided to expose its own guilt in greater detail, commissioning a 700-page historical study of the 4,829 laborers and 1,075 prisoners of war it had obtained from the Nazi labor office.

The main historian, Karl-Joseph Hummel, said only a limited number of Catholic facilities had used forced labor, and at the same time, the Nazis had been persecuting the church.

Most laborers did not work in churches, but typically in Catholic hospitals and cemeteries, on farms run by monasteries or in domestic service. According to the study, most hailed from Poland, Ukraine and the Soviet Union.

Church failed to speak out

In a radio interview, Hummel said the Church had failed by not speaking out clearly against the Nazi regime.

"It should have clearly said how its interpretation of loyalty, honor and the fatherland was not the same as the Nazis' view," he said.

The German Catholic Bishops' Conference said it had also spent 2.71 million euros on 200 reconciliation projects in Eastern Europe.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz said the report was not aimed at achieving closure, and that more reconciliation efforts were planned.

"It's a burden of history that our church will keep facing up to in the future," he said.

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