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Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.: Slave Labor at Royal/Dutch Shell Group

Slave Labour at Royal/Dutch Shell Group

Statement posted on the website of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C. in March 2006

Approximately 1,385 forced laborers worked at oil refineries and petrochemical plants owned and operated by the Royal/Dutch Shell Group during the Second World War. These workers, largely civilians from Eastern Europe and the Low Countries of Western Europe, were compelled to work on the grounds of Shell’s German and Austrian subsidiaries, Rhenania GmbH and Shell Austria AG, respectively. At these locations, the forced laborers toiled long hours under the watchful (and often brutal) guard of Hitler’s S.S. men. Deported from their home countries by force, these workers were housed in filthy barracks, and were denied freedom of movement and proper nutrition. For their work, which was contracted from the S.S., the laborers received no pay from Shell or the German Government.

Shell’s ties with the Third Reich, however, were not limited to the use of forced labor. It was also a founding partner in Deutsche Gasoline (25%), the national German petroleum company explicitly crafted to give the Reich greater control over domestic gasoline production – for both military and civilian purposes.

Shell additionally held the dubious distinction not only of having collaborated with the Nazi Regime to bring Deutsche Gasoline into fruition, but also of sharing control over the company with I.G. Farben Industrie – the infamous producer of Zyklon B poison gas. Despite its enormous wealth – as quantified by annual sales in excess of $93 billion – Shell has failed to compensate any of the men and women who worked on its grounds between 1943 and 1945.

Detailed information follows on the history of Shell’s German and Austrian subsidiaries, which aided the Nazi effort during WWII, and of the forced labor that was utilized in their operations.

Benzinwerke Rhenania, G.m.b.H
Company information:
In 1902, the Royal Dutch Oil Company established the Benzinwerke Rhenania, G.m.b.H (Rhenania), as its “daughter company.” Rhenania, which operated oil refineries in and around Hamburg, produced gasoline for consumption in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1924, it entered the gas station business and by 1929 it operated 149 such stations. During WWII, Rhenania produced fuel for the German army, for the air force, and for civilian consumption – until much of its production capacity was destroyed by Allied bombing. Following WWII, the firm’s name was changed to Deutsche-Shell, which is now one of Germany’s largest oil refining corporations (in addition to its interests in chemical synthesis).

Slave Labor Information:
Approximately 1135 men and women labored on the grounds of Rhenania’s oil refineries and petrochemical factories in northwestern Germany. 150 forced laborers worked at the Hamburg refinery between 1944 and 1945. They were housed at the nearby Concentration Camp Hamburg-Hafen and worked under S.S. guard cleaning debris from air raids, shoveling snow, felling trees, and performing maintenance work. Ms. Zach, a claimant in our registry, was one of the forced laborers who worked for Rhenania in Hamburg. She has attested to the long hours, poor diet, and physical strain she endured during her time with Rhenania.

Additional locations which housed Rhenania forced laborers: Civilian Work Camp, Homberg, 420 persons; Civilian Work Camp, Hamburg, 175 persons; Concentration Camp, Schwelm, 380 persons.

Sources: Das Nationalsozialistische Lagersystem, pp. 78-9, 410, 434, 482.

Shell Austria, AG

Company Information:
Shell Austria has been a full subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell group since its inception in 1923. Its business has consisted chiefly of refining crude oil to produce gasoline, petrochemical products and fuel oil. It also runs a chain of retail gasoline stations.

Slave Labor Information:
Between June 1944 and April 1945 approximately 250 forced laborers worked at the Shell oil refinery in Vienna, Austria. The nature of work performed was maintenance and construction. The laborers, exclusively civilians of East European extraction, were interned at the Civilian Work Camp Florisdorf, which was run by Hitler’s Reichsfuehrer-S.S.
Verzeichnis der Haftstatten unter dem Reichsfuhrer-S.S., p. 374.
Shell Austria’s website:

If you have any information which would be helpful to the prosecution of this case, please contact us:

Washington, D.C.
Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.
1100 New York Avenue, N.W.
Suite 500, West Tower
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: (202) 408-4600
Fax: (202) 408-4699
Toll-Free: (888) 347-4600

New York, New York

Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.
150 East 52nd Street
Thirtieth Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 838-7797
Fax: (212) 838-7745

Chicago, Illinois
Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.
39 South LaSalle Street
Suite 1100
Chicago, Illinois 60603
Phone: (312) 357-0370
Fax: (312) 357-0369

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.
1 South Broad Street
Suite 1850
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: 215-825-4016
Fax: 215-825-4001

Media Inquiries
Deborah Schwartz
Media Relations, Inc.
5818 Conway Road
Bethesda, MD 20817
Phone: 301-897-8838
Fax: 301-897-9143
Mobile: 240-355-8838


Holocaust Litigation. In the historic Swiss Banks litigation, Cohen Milstein served, pro bono, as co-lead counsel for Holocaust survivors against the Swiss banks that collaborated with the Nazi regime during World War II by laundering stolen funds, jewelry and art treasures. Cohen Milstein obtained a $1.25 billion settlement, leading the presiding judge to call the firm’s work “indispensable.” See In re Holocaust Victim Assets Litig., Case No. CV 96-4849 (ERK) (MDG) (Memorandum of Chief Judge Korman dated July 26, 2002). The Firm was also a lead counsel in litigation by survivors of World War II-era forced and slave labor in litigation against the German companies that profited from using the labor of concentration camp inmates. This litigation, which resulted in an unprecedented settlement of $5.2 billion, was resolved by multinational negotiations involving the defendants, plaintiffs’ counsel, and the governments of several countries for approximately two million claimants.


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