Ugly row over finding Berlin station for Holocaust train

April 13th, 2008 - 10:06 am ICT by admin  

By Rohan Minogue
Berlin, April 13 (DPA) An ugly row has erupted over finding an appropriate place for a Holocaust remembrance train to halt when it arrives in Berlin Sunday. German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee has come down strongly on the side of the association that has organised and found funding for the “Train of Commemoration” in its battle with the state-owned national rail company, Deutsche Bahn (DB).

DB has ruled out Berlin’s gleaming new steel-and-glass central station, saying the steam-powered train would trigger the smoke detectors - which apparently cannot be turned off.

The company has also insisted on charging the standard three euros ($4.50) a kilometre for the train to use its network, as well as hefty fees for the train to halt at stations for visitors to see its rolling exhibition.

“A central place must be found in Berlin,” Tiefensee said. “I call on DB to adopt a constructive attitude.”

The Berliner Zeitung daily was scathing: “DB is trying every trick in the book to obstruct this commemoration of children deported in the Nazi era.”

The train, comprising an old steam engine and two carriages, is a travelling exhibition documenting in word and image how some 12,000 children were murdered by the Nazis, many of them transported in cattle trucks for days to their deaths in camps like Auschwitz.

After considerable pressure, DB finally relented and allowed the train to stop at Grunewald in Berlin, the station from where the Berlin transports to Auschwitz left between 1941 and the end of the war.

But these days, Grunewald is an obscure suburban station in the west of the capital, and the organisers remain determined that the train should be allowed to stop at the showpiece central station to allow many more visitors to see the exhibition.

They plan a demonstration on Saturday, leading from the Brandenburg Gate to DB headquarters in a march of silence.

The train is to spend 10 days at various stations in the capital before heading for cities throughout the east and then on to Auschwitz in Poland where the journey ends May 8, the day that marks the end of World War II in Europe.

Tiefensee has called on DB to donate back to the organisers the 100,000 euros it has charged them since the train began rolling through Germany on Nov 8 last year.

And Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit has reminded DB that the Holocaust was planned in Berlin and executed from there. Wowereit, who is gay, is well aware that the Nazis also aimed to exterminate homosexuals.

“Berlin’s Jews were systematically deported to the death camps, and by train. For this reason, precisely in Berlin, it must be possible for this commendable commemoration project to receive every support,” the mayor said.

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