Jewish groups in the Netherlands and Britain have voiced indignation over the docking in Rotterdam of the world’s largest ship, the Pieter Schelte, which is named after a Dutchman who served in the Nazi Waffen SS, the Guardian reported Saturday.
“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,” Jonathan Arkush, the vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, was quoted as saying. “We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”
Pieter Schelte Hereema was in the SS during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, but later joined the Resistance.
Esther Voet, who directs the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, bemoaned the timing of the ship’s arrival in port, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, saying it 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.”
The ship, capable of lifting oil rigs five times heavier than the Eiffel Tower, arrived in Rotterdam on January 8 for finishing touches before entering service.
The nearly 400-meter-long Pieter Schelte Heerema arrived in Europe’s largest port from South Korea where it was built, ahead of starting work lifting rigs and laying pipelines this summer.
“The length and breadth combined cover a surface equivalent to eight football pitches,” said Jeroen Hagelstein of Allseas, which owns the boat that can lift oil rigs weighing up to 48,000 tonnes.
Allseas is owned by Edward Heerema, the Dutch son of Pieter Schelte Heerema.
“We’ve fought this for 10 years, tried to persuade everyone involved that this was 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.”
AFP contributed to this report.