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Europe

Siemens Backs Out on “Offensive” Name

German engineering giant Siemens has retracted application for the trademark name “Zyklon” due to outrage from Jewish groups over the name's association with Nazi poison gas.

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Zyklon B was the poison gas employed to kill millions in Nazi concentration camps

The German engineering company Siemens announced it had rescinded US trademark applications for the name "Zyklon" on Thursday.

The firm was reacting to criticism from Jewish groups, who pointed out that “Zyklon B” was the poison gas employed to kill prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, in particular in Auschwitz.

Originally developed as a pesticide, "Zyklon B" was used to gas millions of camp inmates starting in 1941. Bosch Siemens, the company’s household goods joint venture, had applied for the name "Zyklon" a year ago and intended to use it for a range of products in the US, including gas ovens.

“We didn’t mean to offend anyone," Eva Delabre from Bosch Siemens told DW-WORLD.

Siemens technicians had suggested the name in reference to a technology that uses air currents and is most commonly found in vacuum cleaners. Siemens said that the name “Zyklon” would not be used in the US. There are no plans to rescind a vacuum cleaner called “Cyclon Shuttle,” that is available on the German market.

“Siemens should know better because it was directly complicit in the use of slave labour,” Dr Shimon Samuels, head of the European branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, told the BBC. “This is a major, major scandal.”

During World War II Siemens benefited from the work of slave and forced laborers. The company is party to an agreement for compensation that the German government and industry made with former forced laborers.

The first payments of $4400 went out to 10,000 survivors in June after years of legal battles. Most of those eligible for the payments are in their 70s and 80s or have already died.

The retraction from Siemens comes in the wake of last month's apology from the British sports goods company Umbro for marketing a shoe called "Zyklon". Umbro is the official supplier of the English national soccer team.

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