• Germany edition
 
East German prison labour claims spread
A former Stasi prison cell. Photo: DPA

East German prison labour claims spread

Published: 04 May 2012 17:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 May 2012 17:27 GMT+02:00

Former prisoner Tatjyana Sterneberg told the paper she was forced to make bedclothes for two years while in the notorious Hoheneck women’s prison in the mid-1970s.

“It was terrible,” she said. “In 1974 there were more than 1,600 women in a prison designed for 650 prisoners. My cell was 30 square metres – and had 24 sleeping places. There were three taps and just one toilet.”

She said she had contacted Quelle years ago asking for an apology, but had not received an answer.

“I think it is outrageous that these western companies enriched themselves on the backs of political prisoners in East Germany. That is a scandal,” she said.

Ikea chiefs are working through documents they have requested from the East German secret police archives, which reportedly show that East German prisoners were put to work making things for the home furnishings giant.

While they do so, Dieter Ott has told the Handelsblatt he would be pushing for compensation for the work he did for the company while a prisoner.

“Ikea should be honest and say how many forced workers were used," he told the paper. "If the company got commercial advantage from this arrangement, then one should also be talking about compensation.”

He was jailed in 1986 for applying to leave East Germany, desperate to fulfil a wanderlust.

“Had I known that the cupboard door hinges, door handles and chair casters we were making were destined for Ikea, I would probably have thought it was wonderful. I absolutely wanted to go to the west – working for a western company would have excited me. But no-one told us.”

He said the conditions under which he and the other prisoners worked for Mewa, a state-owned firm, were inhumane.

“The bus which took us to the Ikea work had bars on the windows. We drove through a big metal gate and as soon as we were in the building, there was only neon light. No window, no sunshine.” He said he did not receive any earnings.

Claims were made this week that Cuban political prisoners were also used to make Ikea products during the 1980s after a Swedish television programme aired the claims about East Germans.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

18:14 May 4, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Nothing new here. How many well known German companies were using forced labour during the Nazi era. Even today they scour the world for cheap labour and whilst it may not be so easy at the moment to find free labour like they would like they have come up with the idea of internships to compensate themselves with that loss. Not to mention the falling salaries in real terms for the working and middle classes. Has it ever been any other way during the last hundred years with German government after German government being in cohoots with big German firms.

Look back over the years and make a list of all the top companies who have been caught out but are still in operation today after only receiving a slap on the wrist at most. I won't mention any of them myself for fear of libel. Libel being the course of action they use to stiffle freedom of speech when it does not suit themselves.
20:19 May 6, 2012 by MeinSchwanz
You do realize, that it is the GOVERNMENT that is enslaving its people, and forcing them to work for almost nothing. Whatever money is earned by these workers, does not go to the workers, it goes to the Greedy GOVERNMENT! Same thing happens in the USA, Workers make license plates or make sales calls for pennies a day. The Government picks up the profit.

Think of forced prostitution... WHo Worse? Or MOST guilty?? The person who imprisons another, takes away their freedom to earn, and forces them to provide sexual services for little or no money? Or the person who has sex with that prostitute? Surely, neither is morally just, however, it is clear that one is FAR WORSE than the other. But most of you have your heads so far up you collectivist asses, that you can't see things for what they are anyway. And in your opinion a morally corrupt John is the worst thing on the face of the planet.
23:01 May 6, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Without supply there would be no demand and without demand there would be no need for supply. All in all, the governments that supply are as bad as the companies that exploit this human resource. Companies have no morals when it comes to making profit and until the controlling minds of these companies who are responsible for exploitation such as this are made account for themselves then governments will continue to do this.
11:00 May 7, 2012 by HeidiD
Not only prison inmates had to perform forced labor. And indeed, the issue of forced labor is not one of former East Germany exclusively.

Former institutionalized children have performed forced labor for years. In the Federal Republic of Germany!

Already pre-school children were forced to work for their own bed and food, they forced them into doing this by deprivation of food and/or sleep, by beatings and by psychological terror. Childred slaved in hot mangles and large laundry facilities, in places owned by the orphanages, boarding schools or reformatories, they were ¦quot;loaned" to local farmers as well as brought to work companies (like Ikea f.e.)

The names of the companies that these children and adolesence worked for for a pittance (not even that was paid to them, however!), are known. Most large, well-known names of today are among them!

However: No one speaks of compensation in this particular context! All, the former children ­ forced to labor, tortured, violated ­ can hope for today in Germany is a low level compensation for the pension, now that they are old and many of them living in misery and poverty.

No robbed wages, no compensation for hunger, sleep deprivation, torture, rapes and humiliations...

The former prison inmates have a right to get compensated ­ no doubt!

And no doubt, the former children in institutional care have the same right!

So: Return a bit of our dignity, let us have at least some quality of life now that we are old!

Compensate us!

A survivor of Germany's children's hells
14:00 May 7, 2012 by langolier
So I am not convinced that we have proved that Quelle and Ikea knew of the conditions or the workers making the products were prisoners. I would caution before we embark on a witch hunt to get as much facts and information as possible. We know how the DDR operated. I have no doubt that Ikea was getting a deal by using DDR labor but it would make sense that a communist country could produce cheaper goods because the profits would not have to be as high to pay massivly inflated CEO's. Its possible the DDR leadership played upon this and used prison labor to pay for their fancy retreat houses in the mountians or to secure hard currency to buy things not produced in the DDR.
Today's headlines
Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy
Former SPD MP Sebastian Edathy photographed at a press conference in February. Photo: DPA

Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy

The Constitutional Court on Friday rejected an attempt by former Social Democratic (SPD) MP Sebastian Edathy to have evidence against him thrown out in his trial for possession of child pornography. READ  

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash
Photo: DPA

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash

A Bavarian student expecting a cannabis delivery was collared by "Commissioner Fluke" after acting surprised in front of policemen when he saw his letter box was empty. READ  

Security fears block Germany-Israel match
German and Israeli fans cheer in the stands during a friendly in Leipzig in 2012. Photo: DPA

Security fears block Germany-Israel match

A friendly soccer match against Israel marking 50 years of diplomatic ties has been called off amid security concerns and the escalation of the Middle East conflict, the German Football Federation (DFB) said on Friday. READ  

Germany's brain drain is Europe's gain
Inside the terminal at the Frankfurt International Airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Germany's brain drain is Europe's gain

Figures from the European Union show that while many German professionals are able to find work abroad with their well-recognised qualifications, Germany doesn't always extend the same courtesy to foreigners. READ  

S-Bahn arson in support of refugees, group claims
Passengers at Berlin's Ostkreuz station yesterday as information screens relay news of the disruption. Photo: DPA

S-Bahn arson in support of refugees, group claims

A radical left-wing group claimed responsibility on Friday for an arson attack that cut power to several S-Bahn lines and caused transport chaos in Berlin, saying it was intended to awaken people to the plight of refugees. READ  

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues
Passengers in Hannover check departure boards showing cancelled Germanwings flights. Photo: DPA

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues

UPDATE: Germanwings pilots have ended their six-hour strike which grounded 116 flights and up to 15,000 passengers of Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings on Friday. READ  

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in
Emergency services use a crane to lift the fallen crane in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in

A Cologne resident was pinned to his bed after a 40-metre construction crane toppled onto his home early on Friday. READ  

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel
Merkel looking grave at Thursday's West Balkan conference in Berlin. Photo: DPA

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that European leaders will discuss the worsening Ukraine crisis and possible further sanctions against Russia at a weekend summit. READ  

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League
Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm with fellow World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League

The 2014-15 Champions League draw yesterday brought déjà-vu for English and German clubs as old opponents found themselves facing off once again. READ  

German of the Week
Animal activist fights off murder threats
Photo: DPA

Animal activist fights off murder threats

Friedrich Mülln has been dragged through the courts and threatened with murder during his years of animal rights activism. His latest court case was in Munich this week but he tells The Local he has no plans to give up the fight. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,706
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd