Furniture maker IKEA accused of using East German political prisoners

Bryan Alaspa's picture

An accusation has been made by a Swedish newscaster about whether or not furniture maker IKEA used political prisoners from East Germany to make furniture.

The accusation appeared in a television trailer for an upcoming newscast about the incident. This would not be the first time that the popular furniture manufacturer has been accused of a potentially inappropriate relationship with the communist East Germany during the height of the Cold War.

According to new reports, the incidents that may have involved political prisoners used as labor to put together furniture may have take place during the 70s and 80s, which was the height of the Cold War when tensions between communist countries and the west were high. So far, the furniture maker has not acknowledged that anything of this sort had taken place. The company says that they have undertaken an internal investigation.

The news story, as quoted in the Huffington Post, states that Jeanette Skjelmose, who is IKEA’s social and environmental manager was quoted as saying, So far there are no indications that we would have asked that prisoners be used in manufacturing or known about it. What we're looking into now is whether it could have happened anyway, without our knowledge."

The news report will run on Swedish television on Wednesday night and more about what has been uncovered and what the accusations are after that point.

In 2011 a documentary broadcast on German Public Television stated that there might have been a connection between IKEA and East Germany. The documentary stated that the company and the communist country had developed deep ties during the 1970s. In particular, the company had a strong manufacturing presence in East Germany. The company opened more than 65 locations to manufacture furniture on communist Germany during the 1970s.

IKEA is a Swedish-based company known for sturdy and well-built, but inexpensive furniture. It has become popular thanks to its strong catalog sales. It also has a number of huge stores that showcase the furniture for sale scattered about the United States and now globally. The furniture store is known for its color scheme which includes a deep blue color for the walls of its buildings and brightly colored IKEA logo on each building.

Germany, during the 70s and 80s, was a focal point of Cold War tensions particularly between the United States and the Soviet Union. East Germany was under communist control and communists famously divided the city of Berlin between east and west with the Berlin Wall. The eastern half of Berlin was also communist. The Berlin Wall eventually came down with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s.

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