Bidding to Build Trains in CA, Deutsche Bahn Railroad Whitewashes Its Nazi Past

"In recognition of the railroad workers’ unique achievements in this war I decree December 7 the Day of the German railroad worker." -- Adolf Hitler, December 7, 1943

Who is going to build California’s “train to nowhere”?

From a technical point of view, the likely bidders from France and Japan are far ahead of the competition. The French TGV (developed by Alstom and the state-owned SNCF) and the Japanese “bullet train” have a long track record of reliability. The Chinese CSR, on the other hand (which has hooked up with General Electric), is a relatively new player in the field, while the German high-speed train ICE has a long history of malfunctions and routinely drives German passengers to despair.

But both CSR and the German venture of Siemens and the state-owned railroad operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) are willing to sweeten up the deal: CSR’s offer includes financing; Siemens is luring law-makers with the promise to create 1,000 new jobs in Sacramento. So the race is still open, and other factors come into play.

In August, a bill was passed in California’s Senate and Assembly requiring companies vying for contracts to build California’s high-speed rail system to disclose their involvement in deportations to concentration camps during World War II. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Pajamas Media:

We supported the act in order to encourage companies with WWII-era histories related to slave labor and abetting genocide to acknowledge those actions and apologize accordingly.

Although Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, it is nevertheless already a success: the French railroad company SNCF, which transported 75,000 Jews from France to the death camps between 1942 and 1944, apologized for the first time and launched a website where it presents all its efforts to “shed light on the facts.”

“The apology was apparently not prompted by regret,” the Los Angeles Times criticized. Maybe that’s correct.

Even a half-hearted apology, however, is still more than what the German railroad company -- which, needless to say, transported a much bigger number of Jews to the gas chambers and shooting sites -- has ever been willing to offer. Says Hans-Rüdiger Minow, chairman of the German organization Train of Memory:

Deutsche Bahn has a selective view on history. ... It pretends to bear no responsibility for the deportations because it was founded only in 1994. On the other hand, it is celebrating its 175th anniversary.

The anniversary of the first steam locomotive trip in Germany is being celebrated in Nuremberg between December 7 and 14. Five hundred high society guests were invited, and Chancellor Merkel and company CEO Rüdiger Grube spoke. Grube stated in a press release in May:

The railroad has always brought people together. ... It helped to spread ideas and to rapidly promulgate progress. We look back at a fascinating history, without fading out the seamy sides.

What might be the "seamy sides" of this history? Would it be possible to vaguely circumscribe the deportation of more than three million Jews without using the words “deportation,” “murder,” “death,” “Holocaust,” or “Auschwitz,” let alone any other word that could indicate that people have been killed (and that the railroad may have something to do with it), and without even mentioning the Jews?

Grube shows how it’s done:

In its history, the railroad has also been a tool of domination. DB actively deals with the role of the Deutsche Reichsbahn under National Socialism.

He then switched to other important topics like the anniversary tour, the company’s gift shop, and very appealing anniversary ticket offers.

It should be noted that the Jews who were transported from all over Europe to their deaths got discounts, too:

The charge would be half the third-class rate provided that at least four hundred people were being shipped. ... Children under ten traveled at half fare; those under four traveled free (Raul Hilberg, German Railroads/Jewish Souls).

“Sonderzüge” (“special trains”) were organized, and many thousands of railroad employees gave their best to make sure that the genocide could be carried out on schedule. On August 13, 1942, Obergruppenführer Wolff, chief of Himmler’s personal staff, wrote to Albert Ganzenmüller, deputy general director of the Reichsbahn and undersecretary of state at the Transport Ministry:

With particular joy I noted your assurance that for two weeks now a train has been carrying, every day, 5,000 members of the chosen people to Treblinka, so that we are now in a position to carry through this population movement at an accelerated tempo. I, for my part, have contacted the participating agencies to assure the implementation of the process without friction. I thank you again for your efforts in this matter and, at the same time, I would be grateful if you would give to these things your continued personal attention. (Quote from: Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews)

And that’s what happened. The goal of annihilating European Jewry couldn’t have been reached if it had not been given absolute priority -- even over the efforts to win the war.