• Germany's news in English
 

Ikea: sorry for East German prison labour

Published: 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)

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
Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey
A view of Istanbul. Photo: DPA.

Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey

The German government has issued more severe warnings about travelling to Turkey after a string of terror attacks in the south of the country, and as Ankara intensifies conflict against two militias in Syria and Iraq. READ  

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years
Fire services extinguish an unrelated fire in Hamburg in 2011. Photo: DPA

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years

After a series of arson attacks over several months, an ex-fireman has been sentenced to three years in jail without chance of bail. READ  

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son
Photo: DPA

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son

A mother from North Rhine-Westphalia has accused furniture chain IKEA of debasement, discrimination and marginalization – after employees in their Dortmund store refused to let her autistic son into the children's play area. READ  

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback
Photo: Gemeinde Nuthe-Urstromtal

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback

A woman in a village south of Berlin was shocked to find a rather unusual visitor in her garden on Tuesday. But by the time police got there he'd already bounced. READ  

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'
A pedestrian walks by a group of Stolpersteine. Photo: DPA

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'

The Munich City Council said on Wednesday that it had voted to continue banning the placement of blocks commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims in city streets - a ban that garnered surprising support from Jewish community leaders. READ  

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Batlle in Syria. Photo: DPA

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis

A young teen from Munich was detained near the Turkish border with Syria on Friday as he was trying to join the radical Islamist group Isis. READ  

The Local List
Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather
Photo: DPA

Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather

Is it absolutely roasting, or raining cats and dogs? Neither if you live in Germany. Here are six wonderfully weird expressions Germans use to talk about the weather - some more literal than others. READ  

Little by little, Germans move away from cash
Photo: DPA

Little by little, Germans move away from cash

Tourists and business travellers visiting Germany are often surprised when they reach to pay for their beer, metro tickets or even a large restaurant bill that their credit cards are not welcome. Habits, however, are slowly changing as younger consumers leapfrog from cash to convenient electronic forms of payment. READ  

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
Martin Sonneborn. Photo: DPA

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife

After winning a seat in the European Parliament last year on a commitment to 'milking Brussels,' satirical party Die Partei broke new ground. Now a 'Nazi Putsch' threatens to split the party asunder. READ  

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo
These feathered fugitives took flight from the zoo to get a birds-eye view of the world. Photo: DPA.

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo

A pair of pelicans with a serious case of wanderlust flew the coop from Osnabrück Zoo last week, only to find their way back days later. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
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

7,035
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd