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Jewish Journal

An Insult to Our Soldiers

by Si Frumkin

July 5, 2001 | 8:00 pm

The U.S. Senate approved legislation that helps clear the way for construction of a $160-million World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. An artist's rendition shows a view of the proposed Memorial arch and pillars looking toward the Washington Monument. World War II Memorial Society via Getty Images.

The U.S. Senate approved legislation that helps clear the way for construction of a $160-million World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. An artist's rendition shows a view of the proposed Memorial arch and pillars looking toward the Washington Monument. World War II Memorial Society via Getty Images.

A German corporation that used slave labor to produce some of the weapons that killed American soldiers is now building a monument in Washington to honor the Americans who fought and died in World War II.

How do I know? I was one of those slave laborers. There were 30,000 of us constructing a factory that was to build jet planes for Hitler's air force. My father was worked to death there. I was liberated by the U.S. Army at the age of 14.

Our owner was a German corporation, Philipp Holzmann AG. It used its profits from working for the Nazis and using free slave labor to accumulate enough capital to become the largest German construction company in Germany and one of the largest in the world. It also used this money -- earned by the lives of Jewish slaves -- to buy American companies. One such company, J.A. Jones of Maryland, was bought by Holzmann in 1979 for $75 million.

It was Jones, wholly owned by Holzmann, that was recently awarded the $59-million contract to build a monument to American soldiers who died fighting Holzmann's employer, Adolph Hitler. And there is more. A few months ago, on April 13, a story in The New York Times revealed that the U.S. government (that is, you and me, my fellow-taxpayers) was cheated of several hundred million dollars by a consortium of European construction firms that submitted phony bids for construction projects in Egypt, paid for by our government.

And Holzmann was one of the major thieves.

It admitted its guilt and was fined $30 million for its part in the bid-rigging scheme. And then, as if in apology, our government awarded the contract to build the monument to the very corporation that cheated it.

I and a few dozen other ex-slaves tried to sue Holzmann for suffering, pain, lost wages. Our government didn't like that. The courts were advised that these lawsuits were against the foreign-policy interest of the United States of America and should be dropped. They were dismissed. So what happened to the constitutional guarantee that I, as an American, have the right to a fair trial by a jury of my peers?

Why does the government seem to have a love affair with Philipp Holzmann AG? Officials there say they are patriots, good Americans, never used slave labor and have no ties to the Nazis. This is probably true. Still, where did Holzmann get the money to buy these corporations, if not from profits it made from slaves? And wasn't Lucky Luciano, the infamous gangster, also a patriotic American? He helped the Allies invade Sicily during World War II. But does this make him less of a crook?

And should a memorial to our heroes be built by a company that is owned by a corporation that was responsible for more American deaths than the Mafia ever was? I think not.

But a contract is a contract, and there isn't much that can be done after it was rushed through the General Services Administration and the American Battle Monuments Commission, right?

Wrong! It can be canceled, but first, there must be pressure.

The United States has recently canceled a contract. It was the contract for the black berets for the new uniform. It so happens that the berets were made in China, and after an uproar, the order was canceled, and the berets were manufactured right here in the United States. Tell your elected representatives that you resent this insult to the memory of the American heroes. Tell them that you want a real American company to build the monument -- not an heir of the Nazi murderers. Tell them that you want Congress to stop this outrage.

To contact your senators, find them on the Web at www.congress.org. Drop representatives a line by mail to Representative (name), House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. Senators can be contacted at Sen. (name), Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.

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