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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / November 19, 2001

Page 9 of 11

Continued from page 8

Roughly 61 international US firms, including Coca-Cola and Ford, also have contributed to the foundation. Contributing is supposed to be a shield from reparations lawsuits, but the suits continue unabated as lawyers race to the docket before their clients reach the grave. One suit accuses IBM of allowing its computer technology to make the genocide of Jews more efficient, but US-based companies have largely disavowed any actions of their overseas subsidiaries, which were more or less seized by the Axis.

An international commission led by former US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger has reached a tentative agreement with major Swiss, German, Austrian, and Italian insurers to pay off old policies, but squabbling over who would pay for the program has left the agreement in limbo. Hearings were held on Capitol Hill earlier this month on the topic.

''The work of international insurance, like that of banking, is so intertwined and multinational -- even in the 1940s -- that I suspect it was decided to let beneficiaries of fascist finance off the hook,'' said historian Timothy Naftali, a consultant for the commission overseeing the declassification of US intelligence files from the World War II era.

Still, historians-for-hire and lawyers for purported victims and complicit companies have built a cottage industry in combing through declassified records -- part of a reparations fever that resulted in the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act to begin with.

Yet the indirect relationships American firms had with Axis companies remain below the radar screen.

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