Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review June 15, 2001 / 25 Sivan, 5761

"Is patriotism dead? Is America's sense of pride?"

By Binyamin L. Jolkovsky -- YESTERDAY was Flag Day in America, but across the length and breadth of this country, few of the Stars and Stripes could be seen flapping in the wind.

Some people have given up on American patriotism. It is dead and buried, they say -- just like those who gave their lives in World War II.

Then there are others -- men like Si Frumkin, a proud American and Lithuanian-born Jew, who refuse to give up hope.

Si is a Holocaust survivor. He knows a lot about freedom --- and the lack of it. During World War II, he was a slave laborer. In a sub-camp of Dachau called Kaufering 1, he and 30,000 others worked for a company called Philipp Holzmann A.G. -- seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Hundreds died daily from overwork and starvation -- including Si's father, whose soul returned to its Maker just 20 days before the Americans liberated Dachau. Si was just 14.

Philipp Holzmann owned Si and the other slave laborers. It dictated what they could eat and how much, where and for how long they could sleep, when -- if -- they could relieve themselves. Its wartime activities included the construction of factories that fed the Nazi war effort. The factory Si labored at was building an aircraft factory where jet planes for Hitler's airforce, the Luftwaffe, were to be produced.

So what does all of this have to do with the death of patriotism? Read on.

Unbeknownst to many of the "Greatest Generation," or to their widows, orphans and children, the American government has just awarded a lucrative $56 million contract to, along with another company, J.A. Jones of Charlotte, N.C. Though the century-old company served as a builder of military bases and shipyards for the World War II mobilization on these shores, since 1979, it has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Philipp Holzmann --- it is one of many construction firms the German company owns. Thanks in part to its wartime profiteering and exploitation of Jewish slaves, today Holzmann is one of the richest and most powerful builders in all of Europe.

Shocked? Outraged? You don't know the half of it. The contract awarded to J.A. Jones is for the construction of the World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington. It is hard to imagine a more vile insult to the victims of the Nazis, and to those who died and suffered to defeat them

The U.S. government agency that awarded the contract to J.A. Jones says it was aware of the parent company's history, but was awarded the contract anyway. It seems, among other factors, was the company's lower bid.

A spokesman for the American Battle Monuments Commission, Mike Conley, defended the deal as the "nature of the business." In "this international-commerce world that we live in," he said, "the fact is that its parent company, which is also an American company, happens to be owned by a German company."

A spokesman for J.A. Jones said it has no links with Nazi-era crimes.

Perhaps not. But as Si observes, "as long as [Holzmann] uses money they made on the suffering of slaves, they are the heirs of those slave owners. It's outrageous that the memorial for the Americans who died fighting Hitler will be built by the company that supplied Hitler with weapons.

"Is patriotism dead? Is America's sense of pride?"

Si, who lives in California, has contacted his two US senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Both are Jewish. Neither has returned his calls.

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky is editor in chief of Click here to comment on this column.


© 2001, JWR