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East German Political Prisoners Made Some Of Its Products, IKEA Admits

Posted: November 16, 2012

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"We are deeply sorry that this could happen," company spokeswoman Jeanette Skjelmose says. The Swedish furniture giant says some of its representatives were aware of what was happening. The work was done during the Cold War.

News outlets in German and Sweden have been reporting for the past year that some of the products made in past decades for Swedish furniture giant IKEA were produced by political prisoners in Cold War-era East Germany.

Today, IKEA conceded that the reports are true and that some of its "representatives" were aware of what was happening.

"We are deeply sorry that this could happen," Jeanette Skjelmose, head of sustainability at IKEA of Sweden, told the Aftonbladet newspaper, according to English-language The Local.

After the news reports, IKEA asked auditors Ernst & Young to investigate.

Today, the company said that:

"The investigation indicates that political and criminal prisoners were involved in parts of the component or furniture production units that supplied to IKEA 25-30 years ago. The investigation also shows that there were IKEA Group representatives who at the time were aware of the possible use of political prisoners in the former GDR production. Even though the IKEA Group took steps to secure that prisoners were not used in production, it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough."

IKEA adds that it has, "in consultation with the organisation Union of the association of the victims of communist despotism, ('UOKG' in Germany), decided to make a financial contribution to their scientific research project on forced labour in the former GDR."

Aftonbladet reports the prisoners were paid about 40 East German marks a month for their work and that at the time a "normal monthly salary" in East Germany was around 1,000 East German marks. "Today many of the prisoners think IKEA should compensate them" for the work, the newspaper adds.

An earlier post about IKEA: "Women Erased From IKEA's Saudi Catalog; Company Apologizes."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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