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SS Pieter Schelte: The huge ship cursed with a Nazi name

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 19.09.50By John Donovan

The Observer newspaper, the Mail Online  and the Dutch Financial Times, plus a variety of other news outlets, all published articles over the weekend covering The Pieter Schelte Nazi Ship Controversy. 

SOME OF THE HEADLINES

Jewish outrage as ship named after SS war criminal arrives in Europe: The Observer/Guardian

Named after SS Nazi war criminal: World’s largest ship sparks outrage as it arrives in Europe just as 70th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz is marked (Mail  Online)

Criticism swells of Heerema’s ‘bad name’ heavy lift (Dutch FT)

The response has been staggering.

Almost 500 comments and over 500 Tweets have been made on The Observer article alone, plus over a 1,700 Facebook shares. I have never seen such activity arising from one news story.

Those that argue that under free speech the owner of the huge ship, Mr Edward Heerema, is entitled to give it any name he likes are making a fair point. Furthermore, as far as I am aware, there is nothing illegal about his action.

He has for several years ploughed on relentlessly with his plan to name the vessel in his fathers name, ignoring the outcry in the US and European press, as he is entitled to do.

Shell has eagerly agreed to become one of its first clients and Lloyds Register has had a close involvement in the project right from the inception, as it proudly boasts in the January 2015 edition of its Horizon magazine. Wonderful spread: front page story leading to a multipage feature, all in splendid colour.

However, it is equally true that those who object to the Nazi name are free to exercise their rights to protest and agitative for the name to be changed.

Ports may decide to deny access to the ship because of the bad publicity. Existing and potential clients may decide that it would be imprudent to associate their companies/brands with a ship which has a toxic name. Drivers may decide to boycott Shell. All perfectly legal and proper.

AS I have remarked before, the name is a mark of distinction, but of the worst possible kind. Who would want to Captain a vessel with such a distasteful name? Who would want to be a member of its crew? Certainly no one of Jewish descent, or people who are superstitious and might view the Nazi SS name, with all its evil connotations, as being a bad omen attached to the ship.

No wonder Lloyd’s Register did not openly disclose the stigma attached to the Nazi linked name. No mention of it in their magazine PR fanfare saluting the new vessel.

The petition requesting a renaming can be read here:

Tomorrow I hope to publish an article by a Dutch investigative journalist who has searched the archives and found further damning evidence about Pieter Schelte Heerema. He was apparently well regarded by Royal Dutch Shell, whose founder, Sir Henri Deterding was also a fanatical Nazi and financial backer of Adolf Hitler. 

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