Not a Cent

BERLIN/LONDON |

BERLIN/LONDON (Own report) - The "virtual boycott" of the "Train of Commemoration" maintained by the German railway company, the "Deutsche Bahn AG" and the German Ministry of Transport is provoking disconcertment in Europe. The Bahn AG, the largest rail logistician on the European continent, is demanding several tens-of-thousands of Euros for permission to commemorate the Nazi deportation of European victims carried out by its predecessor (the "Deutsche Reichsbahn"). Because the "Train of Commemoration" with its exhibits of deported children and youth is traveling over the German rail network, fees are being charged for the use of the rails. Additional fees are demanded of visitors to cross the train platform to reach the exhibit. Also for the lighting of the photos and last letters of the victims in the "Train of Commemoration," the rail company is demanding huge sums - amounting to more than 50,000 Euros. The German press has characterized these measures as "unscrupulous". Foreign media are now reporting on the flagrant attempt, through exorbitant financial demands, to bring the "Train of Commemoration'" to a halt. The initiators of the "Train of Commemoration" project are appealing abroad for letters of protest to be addressed to German diplomatic missions in the respective countries. The train is scheduled to reach the Auschwitz Memorial on May 8 with several hundred youth aboard. "We will not pay a penny to the Deutsche Bahn AG" announced the citizens' initiatives in an interview.

In order to have access to an electrical socket, at the central station in Mannheim (Baden-Wuerttemberg), report the participants, the Bahn AG is charging more than 900 Euros. The price set by the Bahn AG for ferrying the exhibition car over a stretch of rail of approx. 100 km is at 5,000 Euros. Private railway companies, in the meantime, are refusing to pull the "Train of Commemoration", because they fear consequences for their business transactions with the Bahn AG in Berlin. The monopoly boycott by the Bahn AG is directly connected to the German mass murders in Europe. The current railway company's predecessor (the German Reichsbahn") was the logistician of the mass murders. To refresh this fact in public memory is "poignant," writes the Daily Mirror in a two-page article in its weekend edition.[1]

Sensitive Subject

The London daily finds it "astonishing" that the Reichsbahn's death trains could roll through cities and villages without the victims being helped. The Reichsbahn's transportation of Nazi victims, including more than 1.5 million children, has long been a "sensitive subject" in Germany. How could "an entire nation" not have known that millions were travelling to their deaths. The Daily Mirror writes that "thousands of other rail employees" kept their jobs after the war, helping to build the new German rail system and "denying any part in the Holocaust."

New Sustenance

The enterprise's marketing strategy is being disturbed by the fact that today's Bahn AG cannot shake off this historical heritage and now the "Train of Commemoration" is repeatedly providing new grounds for European public irritation.[2] With transactions worth billions, the company seeks to acquire the control over all of the European and a large part of the world's logistic systems.[3] It is being supported and directed in this endeavor by Germany's Transportation Ministry in Berlin. The latest examples are the takeovers in Great Britain and cooperation contracts with the Russian state railway. The Bahn AG can expect even greater profits particularly from rail-linked business (in part by sea) with eastern nations. This concerns, among other things, the transport of combat weapons to the Middle Eastern theaters of combat [4] and the upgrading of large harbors in northern Germany to accommodate the roll-on/roll-off traffic to Russian ports on the Baltic Sea. Here the Bahn AG is buying into harbor logisticians and profiting from EU subventions. German economic expansion into the Baltic region is causing the isolation of Polish harbors and - as with the transport of combat weapons to Afghanistan - is having serious consequences. The Bahn AG is feeding new (and warranted) sustenance to the fear of a Teutonic predominance.

Barroom Clichés

Recalling the crimes of the predecessor of today's Bahn AG is bothersome. When historical facts cannot be refuted, they are packed away as artifacts, shielded from public updating - as is the case of the Railroad Museum in Nuremberg (Bavaria) or the Berlin-Grunewald regional train station, on a rusty piece of track in Berlin. German media strongly condemns the historical content of these token sites.[5] Citizens' initiatives in numerous cities have been struggling for years to have modest commemorative plaques installed on the facades of their local train stations, to at least point to the fact that local deportations had taken place, usually without success. Among the by-products of this political defense is the stereotypic allegation, "everything necessary has already been done". On various occasions board chairman Mehdorn gave this excuse to justify refusals to accord public demands: "here at the railroad, we don't need an exhibit, we already have one."[6] The quantitative understanding being expressed here, disputes the cultural dimension of the commemoration - but its limitation is impossible as long as humanity is still guided by the taboo against murder. That the board chairman is fed-up with the theme, corresponds to the cheap barroom clichés about it being high time to "draw the line" on the discussion of the Nazi period.

Maneuver

As reactions to the appeal to protest against the railroad demonstrate, the "unscrupulous" [7] behavior of the railway board is being covered by the Ministry of Transport in Berlin. The ministry maintains a "PP" (Political Planning) section, that shields, to a large extent, the railroad company from public interventions or tactically prepares offensives for its pan-European expansion. Because foreign pressure was brought to bare, over the weekend, in protest of the financial demands on the "Train of Commemoration," the speaker of the ministry in Berlin immediately announced that the company would mercilessly collect the penalty payments for commemorating the Nazi's victims, but donate the money directly to a charity organization.[8] The obvious intention behind the PP section of Berlin's Transportation Ministry seems to be to refute the "enrichment" accusation, albeit without relinquishing the massive boycott maintained against the "Train of Commemoration". The speaker for the presidium of the "Train of Commemoration" citizens' initiative responded to this ministerial maneuver with "we won't pay the Deutsche Bahn a cent."[9]

Youth

The organizers announced that the second stage of the Germany-wide commemoration tour began Monday, January 7, in Hanover and continued via Lehrte, Braunschweig and Bernburg on to Halle. Other stations will be Gotha, Erfurt, Weimar, Apolda and Leipzig. After more than 40,000 visitors during the first leg of the journey, tens-of-thousands more youth are expected, who, onboard the "Train of Commemoration," will inform themselves of the "Reichsbahn's complicity in the murders, as well as of the current boycott of its historical heir.

Please read the Appeal to Protest against the Deutsche Bahn AG and the Ministry of Transportation in Berlin, as well as the January 4, 2008 Press Statement of the "Train of Commemoration" initiative.

[1] Children of the Holocaust train; Daily Mirror 05.01.2008
[2] see also our EXTRA-Dossier Elftausend Kinder
[3] see also Der Herr der Schienen, Zukunftsmärkte jenseits deutscher Grenzen, Perle, Weiße Flecken and Boomdiktaturen
[4] see also Master of Transport
[5] Deutschlandfunk, Sendung vom 04.12.2006. See also Erhebliches Aktienrisiko
[6] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.11.2006
[7] Unmoralischer Profit; Saarbrücker Zeitung 06.12.2007
[8] Streit über Bahngebühren für "Zug der Erinnerung"; Spiegel Online 04.01.2008
[9] Bahn behindert Gedenk-Ausstellung "Zug der Erinnerung" weiter; DeutschlandRadio Kultur, 05.01.2008