A holocaust survivor is suing the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG for the company's alleged involvement in experiments conducted on Jews at Auschwitz by Dr Josef Mengele. Ms Eva Mozes Kor was, with her sister, one of hundreds of sets of twins used by Mengele for grotesque medical experiments at the death camp.
Her lawyer, Mr Irwin B. Levin, claimed that Bayer paid Nazi officials to use Auschwitz inmates and supervised cruel experiments as a form of research and development. Bayer was among a dozen German companies that agreed on Tuesday to take part in a fund to compensate people who had been forced into slave labour by the Nazis.
The company has, in common with other large German firms, admitted using slave labourers during the second World War. But this is the first lawsuit to allege that any company was directly involved in some of the Nazis' worst war crimes.
A Bayer spokesman declined to comment on the allegations yesterday but he pointed out that the Nuremberg trials rejected as false similar charges against the firm's predecessor, IG Farben.
Ms Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were nine years old when they were brought to Auschwitz in 1944.
Miriam died in Israel in 1993 after years of illness which the lawsuit blames on the experiments conducted on her in the death camp.
Mengele's research on twins was aimed at investigating the effect of bacteria, chemicals and viruses on the human body. The substances being examined would be injected into one twin and not the other. Mengele, known as the "Angel of Death", frequently killed both twins so that he could conduct autopsies and compare the two.
Ms Kor's lawsuit alleges that Bayer bought death camp inmates from the Nazis for use in its own experiments and made use of Mengele's work for its own, commercial purposes.