Berlin Central Station

BERLIN/AUSCHWITZ/MÜNSTER |

BERLIN/AUSCHWITZ/MÜNSTER (Own report) - Citizens' initiatives across the country are calling for a centralized demonstration against the Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railroad Corp.) The demonstration will lead to the logistic company's headquarters in Berlin to protest against the Bahn AG's financial demands. The Bahn AG is imposing exorbitant fees for the commemoration of European victims of Nazi deportations. The culprits' successor enterprise is demanding hourly payments for access to the touring exhibition at stations through which children and youth were taken to death camps. The organizers of the "Train of Commemoration" calculate the sum total of the Bahn AG's claims to be in the vicinity of 100,000 Euros. The train carrying biographical testimonies of the murdered youth from the Netherlands, Belgium or Poland is scheduled to arrive at the Auschwitz Memorial on May 8. Dozens of culprits, who, as logisticians for the Nazi's Reichsbahn (railroad), were responsible for the smooth functioning of the death transports to Auschwitz, continued their careers in the West German railway system in the post-war period. The West German Railroad (DB) honored perpetrators of mass crimes, while bitterly resisting commemoration of the victims. In a position statement, the initiators of the "Train of Commemoration" noted that "the current boycott of the 'Train of Commemoration' by the Bahn AG is an attempt to smokescreen and hide the state continuity in major German organizations." By remaining silent about this continuity, the Bahn AG is using the victims of the Holocaust.

The demonstration scheduled for April 12 will be preceded by a major event organized by the "Train of Commemoration" initiative at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate [1] commemorating the more than 4,660 children and youth from Berlin, who were carried away to their deaths by the Reichsbahn. It was in Berlin that the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA - Reich Security Central Office) had planned the arrests of hundreds of thousands in the occupied European countries and had the Nazi Ministry of Transport provide transportation with the "Reichsbahn."

Billions in Profits

Estimates have it that the "Deutsche Reichsbahn" under Transportation Minister Julius Dorpmüller deported around three million people to the death camps. By the end of the war, 400,000 European forced laborers were maintaining the German rail system, over which military personnel and material were shipped to the fronts of the Nazi aggressions. Essential elements of the plundered manufacturing facilities and other stolen wealth from the attacked countries were smuggled into Germany with the "Reichsbahn". Productivity and material subventions went into the technical and real estate funds of the state's railway system that today would be valued at several billion Euros.

Federal Cross of Merit

High-ranking criminals, such as the Nazi Minister of Transport, Julius Dorpmueller, were officially honored by the Deutsche Bahn (DB), the "Reichsbahn's" West German successor. Up until the early 1990s, the state-owned DB covered the charges for the caretaking of Dorpmueller's grave, an accomplice to the mass murder of millions. Railway logisticians who had worked in the railway's regional administration of Auschwitz or had organized the deportations from Warsaw were appointed DB president and chairman of the board.[2] These appointments of deportation specialists was decided during a cabinet meeting of the West German government. When they retired, they were accorded high honors from the German head of state, personally.[3]

Inspection Charge

The DB leadership is putting up a stubborn resistance against the exposure of this continuity. It opposes the publication of Nazi records concerning the "Reichsbahn" and imposes fees on the commemoration of the victims. When the Ruhr Land Museum in Essen (North Rhine-Westphalia) sought to have a memorial plaque installed at Essen's Central Station, commemorating the more than 670 citizens of that city, who were sent with the "Reichsbahn" to their deaths, the DB demanded payment from the initiators: a so-called "inspection fee". Today the plaque, imposed against state resistance, is to be found at an unworthy location, hidden behind a bicycle rack. In Hanau (Hesse) the DB put up an eight-year resistance - including "occasional agonizing conflicts over form and location" [4] - against a memorial plaque for the deported Jews of Hanau. In Nuremberg the DB attempted to suppress the presentation of the "Reichsbahn's" Crimes - against the will of the city's historians.[5]

Revisionist

The Bahn AG had to finally give up this strategy when historical documents furnished by foreign scholars could no longer be ignored and citizens' initiative began to organize demonstrations.[6] In December 2006, the chairman of the Bahn AG, Hartmut Mehdorn, signed a written pledge, committing himself - with reservations - to a public exhibition on the "Reichsbahn's" deportations. But contrary to the original announcement it is being withheld from the public. The pieces of the exhibit are being "shamefully" displayed since last January in a "niche", writes the German press [7], and provides "hardly any information on the crime's of the perpetrators".[8] In Muenster the exhibit will be shown in a dilapidated baggage tunnel and in Halle, in an isolated assembly room. In Cologne, Susanne Kill, an expert on the history of the railroad, was unable to rent space in a documentation center. Everything is being done to prevent the broader public, daily frequenting railroad stations, from seeing the exhibition. The Bahn AG is using a representative of the French victims to publicize the exhibition that is showing clear revisionist tendencies.[9]

Tacit Participation

Efforts to revise the history of the German perpetrators of these crimes has failed, due to the unexpectedly large public interest that has greeted the "Train of Commemoration" since it began its route over the public rail system, entering the stations that had served for the deportations. More than 120.000 visitors have seen the exhibition organized by the citizens' initiatives and become acquainted with the biographies, not only of the victims but also of the perpetrators of these crimes. There have been poignant scenes in the train, particularly as older visitors recall their family histories and reveal their father's and mother's tacit participation in the Nazi regime, journalists are reporting.[10]

Prevent

Because the "Train of Commemoration" cannot be ignored, the Bahn AG is imposing exorbitant costs: 3,50 Euros for each kilometer traveled over the rail network, from 22 - 45 Euros per hour that the train's exhibition is shown in railroad stations, 5 Euros for overnight stopovers and up to 950 Euros for access to electricity at the railroad stations. The planned demonstration will protest against these methods that are being deplored but not curbed by German parliamentarians. In April the train should enter Berlin's Central Station. The Bahn AG has announced, it will find a way to prevent it.

Please read also our EXTRA-Dossier Elftausend Kinder.

[1] Pressemitteilung vom 29.02.2008
[2] Adolf Gerteis, Fritz Schelp und andere
[3] 1962 erhielt Schelp aus den Händen des Bundespräsidenten das Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband. Schelp war bereits Träger des NS-Ritterkreuzes des Kriegsverdienstkreuzes ohne Schwerter.
[4] Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Hanau
[5] Volldampf zum Scherbenhaufen; AZ 18./19.09.1982
[6] see also our EXTRA-Dossier Elftausend Kinder
[7] Holocaust-Opfer in der Scham-Ecke; Spiegel Online 23.01.2008
[8] Sonderzüge in den Tod; Die Zeit 24.01.2008
[9] Beate Klarsfeld
[10] www.zug-der-erinnerung.eu