Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Is Keolis the only bad company involved in WWII atrocities?

Keolis is a French transportation infrastructure company very active in running US transit systems as a part of outsourcing contracts to manage publicly-owned infrastructure.

They are on one of the bidding teams to construct the Purple Line light rail system in Suburban Maryland ("Opposition to Maryland rail line bidder raises" and "Maryland lawmaker says he won’t jeopardize Purple Line funding with Holocaust bill," Washington Post).  (They recently won the bid to run the MBTA commuter railroad service.  See "Losing bidder goes to court to block commuter rail deal" from the Boston Globe.)

Their bid in Maryland is being challenged because the SNCF railroad in France, which owns 70% of the Keolis company, transported Jews to German death camps during World War II.

Then again, General Motors and Ford manufacturing plants in Germany were used to construct equipment for the German side ("Nazis rode to war on GM wheels," San Francisco Chronicle). Henry Ford was a strong supporter of Hitler in the pre-war period. GM also provided lead additives to improve the reliability of gasoline.  Chase Bank had nefarious dealings as did Kodak and IBM.

I understand the opportunity to use contracting as a leveraging point.  But...

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At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Christopher said...

I've seen it said that GM's decision to keep Opel running during the war may have been the single most important economic engine for Nazi Germany. More important than Krup or VW or any of the other homegrown industries. Even the U.S. film industry, including film companies run by American Jews, refused to stop producing (and censoring films) for the German market. I think we need to let this ship sail... It's hard to make assumptions about past decisions based on current morals.

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

GM may have 'owned" opel during the war but the company was seized by the german government -- just as we seized german assets in ww1 (see Bayer).

So yes it was restored to GM at the end but that is the price of winning.

The SNCF situation is just as attentuaed and seems designed to appeal to Jewish voters in MoCo. The case is that Germany (through treaty) and various german companies (mostly through extortion) have paid out but various other countries haven't.

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people have seized on SNCF because its involvement was more direct - the others are companies that sold things to Germany - had SNCF only transported steel or coal for Germany, yes, it would belike GM or whomever. But it actually transported French Jews to their deaths.

And don't worry, the Purple Line will move ahead anyway.


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