• Germany edition
 
Ikea: sorry for East German prison labour
Photo: DPA

Ikea: sorry for East German prison labour

Published: 16 Nov 2012 16:06 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Nov 2012 16:06 GMT+01:00

After initially denying revelations made this April on SVTSveriges Television, Ikea on Friday admitted that prisoners had been used to make its products in East Germany.

“We deeply regret that this could happen,” said sustainability manager Jeanette Skjelmose in a statement.

Auditors Ernst and Young combed through tens of thousands of documents from the Ikea and German federal archives to produce the report, which Ikea presented at the Stasi victim association UOKG headquarters in Berlin.

Although steps were apparently taken to ensure prisoners were not used, the company did not “have the well-organised control system we have today and clearly did not do enough to prevent this type of production method,” Skjelmose added.

There were managers in the company at the time who knew there was a chance it was happening, the report revealed.

Since the investigation began in May, around 90 people have been interviewed – including prisoners who made the furniture. Both former and current staff were asked to fill out questionnaires and a hotline was made available for those with information.

Before being brought up on SVT, a German television documentary aired on WDR in July 2011 first accused Ikea of using prisoners. The company said in May that they had looked into it, and the accusations were false.

During the 1970s, Ikea developed a strong manufacturing presence in the GDR (German Democratic Republic), establishing operations in 65 locations across the country to produce parts and furniture.

The report came under fire before it was released, as academics questioned why Ikea had paid Ernst & Young to carry out the investigation.

Klaus Schröder, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University, said, "It would have been simpler to come and ask us because we are the experts on this subject."

Roland Schulz, vice-president of an association representing victims of the socialist regime in East Germany, dismissed the report as "unscientific."

"Ikea as the guilty party is itself conducting the investigation rather than leaving it to unbiased sources. Therefore we strongly doubt the validity of the results," he added.

He called for historians and political scientists to carry out a more thorough investigation.

But UOKG president Rainer Wagner told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that Ikea's efforts were "a start" and called on other firms to investigate their past.

The UOKG and other victims' groups have called for a compensation fund to be set up for former East German forced workers.

The Local/AFP/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

11:19 November 17, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
So where are they exploiting nowadays? Corporations have always exploited cheap labour. Isn't it a fundamental principle of 'Human Resource' management to avail of 'Human Resources'?
21:08 November 18, 2012 by DOZ
Never bought anything from IKEA because of where the store was situated.
17:11 November 23, 2012 by urth
Just one more thing to slide off the back of the 'Teflon® Company'. And one more reason why I discourage anyone from buying anything there.
04:18 December 11, 2012 by CoolBlueIce
Ikea's official apology was actually, "Oops... My bad."
Today's headlines
Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats
Photo: DPA

Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats

A man from Munich was arrested on Monday for posting videos on Facebook in which he posed with a gun and threatened to kill foreigners. READ  

View from Germany
'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA

'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs. READ  

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

UPDATE: A man set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday night. Police said it was too soon to say whether it was part of a political protest. READ  

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway
Photo: NRW-aktuell.tv/YouTube screenshot

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway

Thousands of litres of beer were spilled on a motorway near Duisburg in western Germany on Monday night, when a truck carrying several hundred crates of Bitburger toppled over, shutting the Autobahn. READ  

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis
Photo: DPA

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis

Seriously ill patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, a German court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Seven German family members killed in Gaza
An Israeli strike on Gaza City on Monday. Photo: DPA

Seven German family members killed in Gaza

UPDATE: Seven members of a German family living in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday evening. READ  

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum
Photo: DPA

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum

Workers in Germany are paying a record amount of tax into government coffers, according to figures published on Monday. Those on an average wage of €40,000 pay almost twice as much tax in Germany as they would in the United States or Australia. READ  

Netflix to launch in Germany in September
Laverne Cox, star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Photo: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Netflix to launch in Germany in September

Netflix revealed plans on Monday to launch in Germany in September this year, bringing the popular movie and TV streaming service to one of the world’s biggest markets. READ  

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia
An armed separatist walks past the bodybags of victims of the MH17 crash. Photo: EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile. READ  

No foreigner road toll for German borders?
Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (l) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer are fighting over the "foreigner toll". Photo: DPA

No foreigner road toll for German borders?

Bavaria’s interior minister has called for German border regions to be exempt from a controversial project to charge foreigners to use the country’s roads, sparking a row within his own party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,232
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd