Ferdinand Porsche may be celebrated as the designer of the Volkswagen and for the car line that still bears his name, but there are some who would prefer to forget that the engineer joined Hitler’s SS in 1937 and served as the head of the Fuhrer’s tank commissioner. He knew Hitler personally and used slave labor to build the Volkswagens requested by the dictator.
Veterans and Jewish groups say that an “exhibition” (formerly designated as a memorial) built in Porsche’s birth place (Vratislavice nad Nisouto, Czech Republic) to honor his legacy has brushed over his SS past and relationship with Hitler.
But not everyone in this modest locality of nearly 8,000 residents northeast of the capital Prague felt comfortable trumpeting their native son.
Last year, a new team voted into city hall could no longer ignore growing protests that Vratislavice — in an area annexed by Nazi Germany in the late 1930s — was “memorialising” a man who had worked for Adolf Hitler.
Anti-Nazi war veterans and the Jewish community objected to the fact that the facility never mentioned Porsche’s Nazi connections, Mayor Ales Preisler told AFP.
They condemned Porsche for joining the Nazi SS paramilitary group before the war, and deplored that prisoners of war were used as slave labour at the Volkswagen car plant in Wolfsburg, Germany when Porsche was general manager.
To calm matters, the town hall late last year renamed the memorial an “exhibition” and added a text saying Porsche had been a Nazi.
Porsche AG, meanwhile, took back its cars but would not talk about the controversy, saying it was a “local issue”.
“All vehicles in our collection are rotated on a regular basis,” was the only explanation given by Porsche AG spokesman Dieter Landenberger who declined further comment.
The facility has been empty ever since.
- Unwelcome -
About the same time, the town hall removed the signs proclaiming Vratislavice was Porsche’s birthplace.
“These things should not be financed using municipal cash,” Mayor Preisler told AFP, adding Porsche “was a Nazi all right”.