By Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times
One of the two American companies selected last week to build a World War II memorial on the Mall is owned by a German construction company that used concentration camp labor during World War II.
The two companies, Tompkins Builders of Washington and Grunley-Walsh Construction of Maryland, were awarded a $56 million contract for the first phase of the memorial. Tompkins is owned by J. A. Jones Inc., of Charlotte, N.C., which is wholly owned by Philipp Holzmann AG.
Holzmann, a German construction giant, was one of hundreds of German companies that used workers in concentration camps and is among dozens of companies that have agreed to contribute to a $4.5 billion fund to compensate Nazi-era slave and forced laborers.
Holzmann’s relationship to Tompkins was first reported on Saturday by papers that are part of the Media General News Service.
Edward Small, president of Tompkins, and Michael Conley, spokesman for the American Battle Monuments Commission that helped to raise $170 million for the memorial, both said it was unfair to stigmatize Tompkins because of the company’s indirect financial ties to Holzmann.
Mr. Small and Mr. Conley said Tompkins was established as an American company in 1911 and was acquired by J. A. Jones in the mid- 1960’s. Holzmann bought J. A. Jones in 1979.
“Let me tell you this – it’s awful,” Mr. Small said. “Me being Jewish, it upsets me to no end. We’re hard- working loyal Americans and these complaints are not only inappropriate, they’re un-American. I wonder how many of the people making the complaints are driving Volkswagens and Mercedeses and BMW’s.”
J. A. Jones built nine American military bases where United States troops were trained for World War II, the Navy shipyard in Panama City, Fla., more than 200 Liberty Class warships during World War II, and a number of air bases and facilities in and around Saigon during the Vietnam War. Its subsidiary, Tompkins, built the headquarters of the C.I.A., the reflecting pool on the Mall and the West Wing of the White House.
John D. Bond III, president of J. A. Jones Construction Company, said in a statement today in response to the revelation, “Let me make this as clear as I can make it: anyone who questions the patriotism of J. A. Jones Construction Company, its employees and our historical commitment to a free world is misguided and misinformed.”
A statement issued by Mr. Conley for the Battle Monuments Commission said the construction contracts were awarded by the General Services Administration, acting as the agent for the commission.
“The selection was based on price, experience on comparable projects and past performance,” it said.
Last week, the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, which filed suit against the memorial project last year, lost a bid to stop construction but promised to fight on despite support for the project from President Bush, Congress and veterans groups.
Congress voted overwhelmingly last month to move forward with the memorial, despite opposition from groups concerned that it could destroy the integrity of the Mall. But after disclosure of the accusations about the company, several lawmakers, including Senators Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and George F. Allen, Republican of Virginia, called for an inquiry.
In a statement, the World War II Veterans to Save the Mall, a small group that is part of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, said: “We are sickened by the announcement that a contract to build the World War II Memorial has been signed with a company tied to Nazi slave labor camps. This is the latest chapter in a dishonest process that is casting a shadow over what was until now a proud legacy.”
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
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