Survey: Some 1,500 statues and streets pay tribute to Nazis around the world, including in Germany and the United States

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Germany, long seen as an international model for acknowledging its Holocaust history, nevertheless currently has at least 162 streets and schools named after Nazis and their collaborators, a Forward investigation found.

These public tributes to people who committed horrific atrocities during World War II persist despite Germany’s strict laws against displaying Nazi flags or other symbols, and even though many of its major cities have, over the past two decades, commissioned reports aimed at stamping out inappropriate tributes from Nazi Party members and others with racist or anti-Semitic backgrounds. Most are in the former West Germany.

The Forward has documented each of these streets and schools as part of an ongoing effort to publicly list all statues, monuments, and other public displays of Nazis and their collaborators around the world. For International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, we released our initial survey, which included 320 such memorials in 16 countries on three continents.

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After another year of reporting, we’ve added 1,135 more items to the list, bringing the total to 1,455 in 25 countries, including the United States and five Western European countries. The updated list includes 11 more Nazi monuments in seven US states – Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin – bringing the total in our own country to 26.

In response to the original article, local officials in a Belgian town voted in December to remove its memorial under international pressure. Our investigation has also sparked discussion of the issue in places as different as Wisconsin and Azerbaijan.

The local government of Zedelgem, Belgium, has decided to remove a 2018 sculpture honoring Latvian collaborators of the Nazis from its place, despite the monument’s vocal defense by the Latvian foreign minister and undersecretary of state.

Outside of Belgium, most of the original investigation, centered on Eastern Europe, where Holocaust revisionism – often accompanied by neo-Nazi rallies – is most blatant. But news reports from the past year reveal that even in Germany and Austria, countries generally respected for their post-war recognition and education of Nazi atrocities, Holocaust distortion is commonplace.

For six decades, Germany has implemented far-reaching measures to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust. School curricula address the steeped history and often include excursions to concentration camps. The government has allocated some $100 billion in reparations to survivors and their descendants. Holocaust denial is illegal. But over the past 25 years, many German cities, large and small, have recently named schools and streets for prominent Nazis.

For example, at least seven public and private institutions – a graduate institute in one university, a college in another, a performance hall, a nursing home, a hospital, a street and a school – have all been named in honor of Alfred Krupp, the industrialist convicted of war crimes in 1948.

Krupp was found guilty of using the forced labor of POWs and concentration camp inmates, working over 30,000 of them to death; the scale of his atrocities necessitated a separate tribunal at Nuremberg.

Krupp was released from prison in 1952; after his death in 1967, the foundation he had established began funneling money into charitable causes and public works, focusing on science and education. In 2001, the foundation gave 10 million Deutsche Marks – the equivalent of about $7.6 million in today’s US currency – to what is now Jacobs University Bremen to build its first residential college. , named after Krupp.

And he is not the only Nazi collaborator whose name is publicly displayed in Germany today.

The country is dotted with streets paying homage to Wernher von Braun, who built rockets used to kill civilians in Allied countries; more than 10,000 concentration camp prisoners died building these weapons.

There are also streets named in honor of Friedrich Flick, whose steel empire was built on the expropriation of Jewish businesses; Max Ilgner, an IG Farben executive who produced Zyklon B gas for the Auschwitz gas chambers; Albert Reinmann Jr., whose factories abused prisoners to the point where even the local Nazi Party office had to intervene; and Ferdinand Sauerbruch, who headed the medical branch of the Third Reich office responsible for authorizing horrific experiments on concentration camp inmates.

These street names persist despite the fact that the local governments of most major German and Austrian cities have, over the past two decades, enlisted panels of historians and other experts and compiled pages of evidence to root out a such public tribute.

Sometimes a city will add a disclosure plaque to acknowledge the honoree’s story. In 2016, for example, Vienna added a sign to its Ferdinand Porsche Street that read: “The issues in his biography are his membership in the NSDAP and the SS” – referring to the Nazi Party and its paramilitary arm – “employment forced laborers and his work in the Nazi arms industry.

Overall, the Forward counted 178 statues, monuments, streets or other means of commemorating Nazi collaborators across Germany and Austria, as well as 112 such objects in four other Western European countries: l Italy, Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom. We also found 25 additional monuments to German, Ukrainian and Belarusian collaborators in Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, bringing the known total in the United States to 37.

Some of these cases involved the federal government. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, for example, has a lecture hall named after Dr. Kurt H. Debus, a Nazi scientist who was brought to the United States after World War II. .

Debus was a hired Nazi who wore his SS uniform to work; its V2 rockets were built by slaves who lived and worked in underground tunnels.

In February 2021, after lobbying by its own employees, NASA removed the bust of another Nazi scientist, Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich’s chief rocket technology development engineer who, after the war, worked for the US Army and then NASA itself. .

The US Space & Rocket Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, also removed its own bust of von Braun this week, days after inquiries about it from the Forward. But the center still has a large screen on its wall with a quote from von Braun: “The rocket will free man from his remaining chains, the chains of gravity, which still bind him to this planet. This will open the gates of heaven to him.

Von Braun, like Debus, was among approximately 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians brought to the United States after the war under a secret intelligence program called Operation Paperclip. He received the National Medal of Science in 1975 and was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1967.

Von Braun’s name still adorns a research room at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, a public institution, as well as an entertainment complex owned by that city, where he helped develop the Apollo Moon program.

The Forward has compiled its list of Nazi-related monuments using criteria which you can find detailed here. It wasn’t enough that the person was an anti-Semite or even a member of the Nazi Party – otherwise Germany alone would have had several hundred additional entries. Instead, we only included individuals and organizations that had a direct connection to aiding the Third Reich or enabling the Holocaust.

Some, like the Spanish Blue Legion, fought for Germany; others, such as the local Ukrainian auxiliary police, massacred Jews. The list includes a Russian Cossack general, an Italian war criminal who served in Mussolini’s Nazi puppet republic, Flemish and Ukrainian clerics who recruited thousands of men for the SS, and more.

Today, as anti-Semitism continues to rise worldwide and the memory of the Holocaust fades, the Forward’s ongoing investigation attempts to fully document any public recognition of Nazi collaborators. You can find our list below.

the front is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to providing incisive coverage of the issues, ideas, and institutions that matter to American Jews.

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