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VW pays victims of military dictatorship in Brazil millions in compensation

During the military dictatorship in Brazil, Volkswagen is said to have cooperated with the regime and delivered its own employees to the knife. Now the group pays them compensation.

35 years after the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil, Volkswagen is paying persecuted former employees millions in compensation. This provides for a comparison with the country’s judicial authorities, which the company said it signed on Wednesday. The carmaker is said to have collaborated with the regime at the time and delivered workers to the knife.

“It is important to deal responsibly with this negative chapter in the history of Brazil and to ensure transparency,” said VW law chief Hiltrud Werner in a statement in Portuguese. The background to this is the results of a commission set up by the government that examined the role of companies during the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

The experts found that Volkswagen and other companies had secretly helped the military to track down so-called public enemies and union activists in the workforce. Many of these workers have been fired, arrested or harassed by the police, according to Reuters research in 2014. They haven’t found a new job for years.

VW comparison “groundbreaking” for historians

The broadcasters NDR and SWR as well as the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on the settlement that has now been concluded. According to VW information, it provides for a total payment of around 36 million real (around 5.5 million euros). Of this, 16.8 million reals go to a victim association of former employees and their surviving dependents.

The rest will be donated to human rights initiatives. The Brazilian public prosecutor’s office announced that the settlement would terminate three investigations that have been ongoing since 2015.

The historian Christopher Kopper from Bielefeld University, who was entrusted with the matter by Volkswagen, described the comparison as historically groundbreaking. “It would be the first time that a German company accepts responsibility for human rights violations against its own workers in the plant for incidents that happened after the end of National Socialism,” Kopper is quoted by NDR, SWR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung”.

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