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NAZI

Ikea used East German prison labour: report

Swedish furniture giant Ikea used East German political prisoners in the 1970s and 1980s to help build sofas at a factory that sat adjacent to a prison, according to German media reports.

During the 1970s, Ikea developed a strong manufacturing presence in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), establishing operations in 65 locations across the country to produce parts and furniture, according to a report by German public broadcaster WDR.

Citing documents taken from the Stasi archives, the broadcaster found evidence of deep cooperation between Ikea and East German authorities.

According to the Stasi files, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad stated that, 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”.

One factory, where Ikea’s popular Klippan sofa was produced, stood beside a prison in the town of Waldhiem.

A former prison chief told WDR that prison labour was an expected part of furniture production.

And Hans Otto Klare, who was imprisoned for trying to flee East Germany, told WDR of miserable working conditions at a factory in Naumberg where Ikea fasteners and hinges were produced.

“Our team of workers lived in the upper part [of the factory], where the windows were covered. In the lower part of the building were the machines,” he told the broadcaster.

“The machines were like this: they had no proper seats, no hearing protection, no gloves. It was even more primitive than conditions that already existed in the GDR economy. It was slave labour.”

In an interview, Sabine Nold, a spokesperson for Ikea in Germany, told the programme she had no comment on the revelations.

On the day the programme was broadcast in early Auguest, Ikea also issued a statement claiming they hadn’t found any evidence of prison labour, but was nevertheless sorry if it did indeed occur.

The report came just prior to the publication of a new book by Swedish journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink, entitled “And in Wienerwald the trees remain” (”Och i Wienerwald står träden kvar), which includes revelations that Kamprad was more active in Swedish Nazi circles than previously known.

Among other things, Kamprad is believed to have actively recruited new members to Sweden’s main war-time Nazi movement the National Socialist Workers’ Party (Svensk Socialistisk Samling – SSS).

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IKEA

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.

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