Swedish furniture giant Ikea expressed regret today that it benefited from the use of forced prison labor by some of its suppliers in communist East Germany more than two decades ago. The company released an independent report showing that East German prisoners, among them many political dissidents, were involved in the manufacture of goods that were supplied to Ikea 25 to 30 years ago. The report concluded that Ikea managers were aware of the possibility that prisoners would be used in the manufacture of its products and took some measures to prevent this, but they were insufficient.
Ikea commissioned auditors Ernst & Young to look into allegations aired by a Swedish television documentary in June, but first raised by a human rights group in 1982. "We deeply regret that this could happen," says an Ikea manager. "The use of political prisoners for manufacturing was at no point accepted by IKEA." But she adds that "at the time we didn't have the well-developed control system that we have today and we clearly did too little to prevent such production methods." Rainer Wagner, chairman of the victims' group UOKG, said Ikea was just one of many companies that benefited from the use of forced prison labor in East Germany from the 1960s to 1980s. "Ikea is only the tip of the iceberg," he says.