Reparation fund is morally responsible

The decision of many prominent German companies in cooperation with the German government to create the “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future” fund that will compensate victims of the Nazis is a laudable one. It is the right thing to do, both morally and financially, even if the motives behind the move are questionable.
It has recently been brought to the public’s attention that a number of German businesses profited directly from the Holocaust by insuring buildings in the Auschwitz camp and using slave labor from the concentration camps for production among other things. Companies contributing to the fund include Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Deutsch Bank and eight others of Germany’s largest industrial firms.
Although the impetus for the fund is most likely fear of multiple legal claims, that should not completely take away from the apparent willingness to atone for dreadful actions. Compared to the Swiss banks, who, rather than acknowledging their wrongdoings, tried to fight reparations in court, the German companies are behaving admirably. Israel Singer, head of the World Jewish Congress said, “It is extremely encouraging that they seem sincere in reaching moral and material restitution.”
The actions are particularly interesting considering the possibility lawsuits would fail in a court of law. However, German CEOs seem to realize that winning in the courtroom would not necessarily mean winning in the public eye. Many consumers would boycott companies viewed as having profited from the exploitation of concentration camp labor, regardless of whether or not the claims were judged valid.
Another reason guiding the establishment of the fund may be Germans’ growing resentment at continually being called to repent for sins that most living German citizens were not alive to commit. While most Germans certainly find the actions of the Nazis despicable, they are not necessarily willing to be reviled for those same actions. Creating the fund is an attempt to both admit some measure of responsibility and at the same time attempt to move on from the tragedy of World War II.
Hopefully, the public attention about slave labor can be used to scare companies currently using abusive labor practices to stop. Businesses want to make a profit, and often morals fall by the wayside. Consumers need to realize that they can use their beliefs to change labor practices–moral CEOs are very rare. If class action suits weren’t being prepared against German companies, it is extremely unlikely that the fund would exist.
Ultimately, whether Germany and its industrial leaders are creating the fund for truly moral reasons is not that important. Setting up the fund is the right thing to do. If the right thing is being done for the wrong reasons, the right thing is still being done. German industrial leaders should be applauded for placing morality above prosperity.