Jewish groups in the Netherlands and Britain are furious at the decision to name what is claimed to be the world’s biggest ship after a Dutchman who joined the Waffen SS, the Guardian reported at the weekend.
The Pieter Schelte arrived at Rotterdam port for fitting two weeks ago, just prior to the attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris and ahead of commemorations to mark 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Guardian said.
Esther Voet, director of the Dutch Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (Cidi) said that the timing of the ship’s arrival, was ‘a coincidence, I’m sure, but a sign of the times. We lost our battle to have the ship’s name changed, and we are left eating dust.’
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is ‘an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis’.
The ship is named after Pieter Schelte Heerema, a maritime engineer who was a member of the Waffen SS for a time during World War II. His son Edward Heerema founded the privately-held Allseas offshore industry pipe-laying company which commissioned the €2.4bn ship.
Edward Heerema has distanced himself from his father’s past aand says naming the ship after him is to honour him as the ‘offshore pioneer that he was’.
‘We’ve fought this for 10 years, tried to persuade everyone involved that this is offensive,’ Voet told the Guardian. ‘But no, we’re left with this fact: the largest ship in the world is named after an officer in the SS, and not enough people are offended to get this changed.’
The Dutch government reportedly gave a $1m tax break to Allseas Dutch unit for its part in the ship’s construction.
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