Roland Jahn praises Ikea for disclosing the forced labor of political GDR prisoners – and at the same time criticizes it. He called for transparency from other companies as well.
Was there production for Ikea here? Lattice window of the former closed youth work yard Torgau. Photo: dpa
The federal commissioner for the Stasi files, Roland Jahn, has assessed the forced labor of political GDR prisoners for the furniture chain Ikea as the tip of the iceberg. Numerous Western companies had profited from trading with GDR businesses, Jahn told dpa on Saturday. The former GDR opposition member called for transparency: "It is necessary to comprehensively disclose the involvement of Western companies in the production use of political prisoners.¡
He offered the help of the federal authority for this purpose. Ikea had admitted to having known about the use of political prisoners for the company’s furniture production at least since the early 1980s. According to a study presented on Friday, Ikea had supply contracts with at least nine foreign trade companies in the 1980s. At least 66 companies had a direct relationship with Ikea.
The federal commissioner praised the company for coming to terms with the situation. However, Jahn criticized Ikea for not answering adequately why it had not stopped cooperating with GDR companies when it learned of the use of political prisoners in the manufacture of Ikea products. He told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper, "Pointing to the prevailing political conditions is not helpful; the standard of human rights applied then as now."
The federal commissioner now called on the company to publish the full report. The reference to data protection to keep the study under wraps sounds like a cop-out, he said. "There are good ways to ensure transparency and data protection at the same time," Jahn said.