By Our Foreign Staff
07 Nov 2008
The $1.7 billion (£1.1 billion) ship, hailed in the Netherlands as a proud milestone in the country's seafaring history, is being built by the Swiss-based company Allseas Group SA. Its founder, Edwin Heerema, wants to name it the Pieter Schelte after his late father, Pieter Schelte Heerema, who was renowned as a maritime engineer.
However Pieter Schelte also served in the SS and the choice of his name for the ship has provoked outcry from politicians and Jewish groups, reviving painful questions about Dutch collaboration with the country's Second World War occupiers.
"For people who know his pitch-black history, this ship should not be named for him. Not now, not ever," said Ronny Naftaniel, director of CIDI, which monitors anti-Semitism in the Netherlands.
He said that Edwin Heerema's desire to honour his father was understandable, but the choice of name was "tasteless".
The issue has also proved awkward for the Dutch government, which gave Allseas' Netherlands subsidiary a $1 million tax break for its part in designing the ship. The authorities now acknowledge that they did not notice the name of the ship until a Dutch journalist raised the issue.
Jeroen Hagelstein, a spokesman for Mr Heerema's company, rejected the criticism.
"Pieter Schelte Heerema was widely appreciated in the industry during his life and the companies that came from his heritage have an excellent name in the offshore industry," said Mr Hagelstein.
He said that Mr Heerema's father joined the Nazis out of opposition to communism rather than enthusiasm for national socialism.
He said he then switched sides and joined the resistance in 1943 "as he could no longer associate himself with the ideas of the Nazis".
He noted that Heerema was tried and released shortly after the war, which shows he "cannot have been seriously delinquent".
The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation said that while Mr Heerema's father had been recognised by the courts as providing "very important" services to the resistance, he was earlier a "prominent" figure among Dutch collaborators with the Nazis.
The new ship, to be used for laying oil pipes and decommissioning North Sea oil rigs, will be 1,253 feet long and 384 feet wide, making it the world's largest in area. It is due for completion in 2012.