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Did Political prisoners of in former East Germany built Ikea furniture?

Saturday, 28 April 2012
Swedish television has turned again on Ikea and revealed that in the former East Germany (GDR) political prisoners were used to build furniture in which the company Ikea sold in its various markets.  At that time prisoners where used to work to produce products cheaply for mostly western companies. So among the companies that took advantage of the cheap labour, was Swedish Ikea. The company rejects the allegation.

The evidence for it, came from Swedish television whose reporter, Bjorn Tunbäck, found in the East German secret police, Stasi archives, which after going through more than 800 documents, claim that several reports in the documents mentioned Ikea.
Swedish television’s investigative program that has been putting more pain in various Swedish companies behaving unethically is reported to have spoken to a jailer who guarded the prisoners who worked in a factory where the famous sofa Klippan was manufactured. He confirmed that there were both criminal and political prisoners in the jail. The channel has also spoken to two political prisoners who now think they made Ikea furniture in the GDR. In prison, the prisoners had no information about who they worked for.

Swedish television reports that Wolfgang Welsch, one of East Germany's most famous political prisoners made, among others, dressers and bookcases in prison. He is quite sure that some of the furniture he made were sent to Sweden.

“We worked in the GDR and the company sold to customers in the West. He who sat on the delivery section saw the letter in Swedish, so it must have found link with Sweden,” said Wolfgang Welsch to Swedish television.

It is known that several companies during the time of GDR used its political prisoners in their production but it was not known that a Swedish company was involved. But Swedish television investigative program, “Uppdrag Granskning” has found documents that show that when the amnesty was granted to prisoners, it caused problems for the company’s production that it had to hurt Ikea as a customer because the prisoners were such an important part of the workforce.

Ikea said in a press release in reacting to the exposure that the company in 1970s and 1980's carried out regular inspections of factories in the GDR. "We were clear about our requirements then and now. We have so far found no evidence to suggest that political prisoners were used in the production, " the company writes and continues: "Ikea has never accepted such a way of doing business."

Kamprad has admitted one case in 1984 but the documents Swedish television exposed show that it was aware of this information already in the early 1980's. Ingvar Kamprad denied the information in an interview with the tabloid paper, Aftonbladet in 1984, when the information from detainees that were released were talking about.

"It is totally wrong. We have 70 employees who only travels around the world and follows the production at the factories that work for us. Only once have they come up with a manufacturer who abused prisoners. It was a lighting manufacturer in Halle, Germany, and then we immediately broke contract. "

After a German television documentary last summer show that talks that Ikea in particular had used political prisoners in Ikea's production, came out without any evidence that this was the case.

The investigation is still ongoing, said Jeanette Skjelmose, Ikea's sustainability director of screening, purchasing and logistics, said.
“We ask for documents from former Stasi Archives and interviews in Ikea who were at that time. So far there are no indications that we would have advocated the use of prisoners in the production or known it.”

“What we are digging in now is whether it would have taken place, without our knowledge,” says Skjelmose.

Just recently Swedish televion carried out a research which showed that furniture giant Ikea contributes to the destruction of virgin forest in Russian Karelia.
By Team

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