– Ikea ‘used political prisoners in GDR as slave labour’ (Telegraph, Sep. 5, 2011):
Swedish retail giant Ikea used political prisoners in East Germany as “slave labour” to make furniture, secret police files unearthed by a German broadcaster appear to show.
Ikea developed strong links with the communist state in the 1970s, opening a number of manufacturing facilities, one of which, according to Stasi records discovered by German television company WDR, used political prisoners to construct sofas.
The factory in Waldheim stood next to a prison, and inmates were used as unpaid labour, it is claimed. Gaols in the Democratic Republic housed significant numbers of political prisoners, with some estimates indicating they made up at least 20 per cent of the entire prison population.
Quoted in a Stasi file, Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea’s founder, said while he had no official knowledge of the use of prison labour, if it did indeed exist “in the opinion of Ikea it would be in society’s interests”.
Hans Otto Klare, who had been sent to Waldheim prison for trying to escape to West Germany, described conditions in the factory as harsh.
“Our labour team lived on the upper floor of the factory with the windows covered,” he told WDR about his time making hinges and other components for Ikea furniture. “The machines were on the lower floor, and you had little rest. On the factory floor you had no proper seating, no ear protection: no gloves. Conditions were even more primitive there then in the rest of the GDR. It was slave labour.”