By Don Feder, Boston Herald
Try to imagine Mitsubishi, whose Zeros took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor, erecting a monument to Americans who died there. How about Jane Fonda as the head of Veterans Affairs?What about the American subsidiary of a German company that was a war contractor for the Nazis — and exploited slave labor — constructing the memorial to the GIs who gave their lives in the fight against fascism?
The General Services Administration awarded a $56 million contract to build the World War II Memorial to J.A. Jones, a wholly owned subsidiary of Philipp Holzmann, Germany’s largest construction company.
During the war, while our servicemen bled in the mud and snow of Europe, Holzmann provided Hitler with the means to kill them — aircraft and other material.
In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, Fredd Wayne, who as a young soldier was assigned to retrieve American dead from European battlefields, called the Holzmann connection to the memorial “an insult to humanity.”
Defenders of the contract note that J.A. Jones built American military bases and Liberty Ships during the Second World War. Besides, Holzmann isn’t the company it was 60 years ago, it’s argued. The firm’s wartime directors have been packed off to a rest home for Nazi industrialists. And, hey, we’re part of a global economy today.
Daniel H. Wheeler, executive director of the American Legion, will let nothing stand in the way of a granite tribute to the greatest generation on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
“World War II vets are dying at the rate of 1,100 a day,” Wheeler told me. Those still with us “would like to take their grandchildren to see the memorial.” And will they like explaining to the nippers how it was built by the subsidiary of a company that helped to kill their buddies?
Jones is doing the construction. But the profits will appear on Holzmann’s balance sheet.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center says, “The only way Holzmann should be allowed to build this memorial is as an act of penance, donating its profits to a fund for the Nazis’ victims.” After all, the rabbi remarks: “What we’re talking about isn’t a shopping mall. It’s a memorial.”
Philipp Holzmann purchased J.A. Jones in 1979 for $75 million. “Where did that money come from?” asks Simon Frumkin. Holzmann “got rich doing business with the Nazis, and on the blood and bones of slaves,” the Holocaust survivor fumes.
Frumkin doesn’t know from a global economy. Suffering he understands. For 13 months in 1944 and 1945, he and his father were the property of Philipp Holzmann, assigned to one of the Kaufering labor camps, satellites of Dachau.
For 12 hours a day, seven days a week, the walking skeletons who toiled there carried 100-pound bags of cement to build an underground aircraft factory. Fed barely enough to keep them alive and savagely beaten, they were human lubricants for the Nazi war machine.
Prisoners were intentionally worked to death. Thus could maximum profit be extracted from those slated for the Final Solution.
Frumkin’s father died of starvation just a few weeks before the 14-year-old was liberated by the United States Army. Along with S.S. guards, Holzmann employees ran the camp.
As for the postwar transformation of Holzmann, Frumkin notes a corporation is responsible for the actions of its former management. To escape liability in pending suits, Holzmann has joined a consortium of German companies paying into a reparations fund for victims of the Nazi forced labor program.
How much Holzmann has changed since the war is debatable. Last year, it pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. government as part of an international bid-rigging scheme. G-d bless the global economy.
One of the many things Americans have lost sight of is the importance of symbols. Those who served in World War II understood concepts like honor and integrity. They knew, almost instinctively, when a thing was unseemly.
There should be a purity about everything associated with their memorial. When the fate of civilization hung in the balance, they sacrificed for liberty and decency. To have a company that profited from genocide involved with this project is morally offensive.
Tags: WWII Memorial