• 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
Greece crisis
Merkel: 'still no basis' for aid to Greece
Angela Merkel arriving in Brussels on Tuesday. Photo: EbS

Merkel: 'still no basis' for aid to Greece

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel offered no new insights into her thinking as she arrived in Brussels for a meeting of eurozone government heads on Tuesday, saying that it was up to Greece to make a move and show willing. READ  

Mafia suspects arrested at Lake Constance
Lke Constance, a 'stronghold' of the mafia. Photo:DPA

Mafia suspects arrested at Lake Constance

Police arrested eight Italian citizens on Tuesday morning at Lake Constance in Baden-Württemberg on suspicion of involvement in the ’Ndrangheta, Calabria’s feared mafia organisation. READ  

Greece crisis
Voters back Schäuble's hard line on Greece
Wolfgang Schäuble in the Bundestag. Photo: DPA

Voters back Schäuble's hard line on Greece

A poll published on Tuesday shows that at the peak of their tough talk towards Greece, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have been earning even greater confidence from German voters. READ  

'Hackers' give orders to German missile battery
Bundeswehr soldiers operating a Patriot missile launcher. Photo: DPA

'Hackers' give orders to German missile battery

German-owned Patriot missiles stationed in Turkey were briefly taken over by hackers, according to media reports on Tuesday. READ  

Workers dismantle Frankfurt Euro sculpture
A worker on a crane removes stars from the Euro sculpture in central Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

Workers dismantle Frankfurt Euro sculpture

As a possible Greek exit from the eurozone looms ever larger, threatening to change the face of the euro forever, the currency's home city of Frankfurt is giving its famous Euro sculpture a much-needed facelift. READ  

Auschwitz trial
Prosecutors seek 3-1/2 year sentence
Oskar Gröning was an SS guard at Auschwitz. Photo: DPA

Prosecutors seek 3-1/2 year sentence

German prosecutors on Tuesday said they were seeking three and a half years' jail time for a former SS officer known as the "Bookkeeper of Auschwitz". READ  

Hot weather to bring tornados and lightning
With this blitz Gerry'll get a taste of his own medicine. Photo: DPA

Hot weather to bring tornados and lightning

After Germans were able to sneak out to restock their wurst and sauerkraut rations during few cool hours on Monday, another heat wave is sweeping across the country on Tuesday, sending people running back to the shade for cover. READ  

July heatwave
Hot dogs lap up liver sausage sundaes
Ice-cream maker Leonardo Caprarese with golden retriever Oscar, enjoying a delicious scoop of Leberwurst ice cream. Photo: DPA

Hot dogs lap up liver sausage sundaes

Hounds languishing in the July heat around Bremen have been treated to a very special snack to cool them down - but it's one that might put humans off their lunch. READ  

Berlin growing twice as fast as expected
Population growth is putting strains on city planning. Photo: DPA

Berlin growing twice as fast as expected

The Berlin senate revealed on Monday that the capital is growing at double the pace that city planners had previously expected. But after decades of stagnation the growth is seen as positive. READ  

Anti-refugee rage grows in Dresden suburbs
Demonstrators outside the Freital refugee home are held back by police on June 26th. Photo: DPA

Anti-refugee rage grows in Dresden suburbs

Freital, the town that became famous last week for irate anti-refugee protestors outside a new home for asylum seekers, saw a fresh confrontation on Monday night as local people gathered for a town hall meeting. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
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

6,866
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd