Protests Force Rechristening of Nazi War Criminal Named Ship

Pieter Schelte - Wikipedia
Pieter Schelte – Wikipedia

Want to cause a disturbance? Name a ship after a Nazi and land it where there is a large Jewish populace

The Dutch are known for causing controversy. But the Swiss? These people are the definition of neutrality, going so far as to vote down a bill to increase their staggeringly small air force, because of what it might signify. So how do the Dutch and the Swiss both end up as bedfellows in controversy?  Because a ship has been named after a Nazi; not just any Nazi but a Waffen SS commander who was convicted for war crimes.

Unbelievable; yet that is the turmoil Allseas Group SA finds itself in the middle of since AGSA’s founder, Edward Heerema, decided to honor his Dutch father by naming a giant ship of the Dutch-Swiss maritime company after him. Naming ships after fathers and mothers isn’t unusual and the naming wouldn’t even have been conceivable had Heerema’s father been named Hitler.  However, because the ship had been named Pieter Schelte there was certain to be a fuss.

Pieter Schelte Heerema - Wikipedia
Pieter Schelte Heerema on his wedding day, December 1942- Wikipedia

Who was this Schelte whose name causes such consternation? He was an officer of the Waffen SS who later became the commandant of a company based in the Netherlands. The company had one goal: round up both volunteers and conscripts to provide for the Nazi war effort. Now, while this is by no means on the same level of infamy as the death camps, SS guards were not known for benevolence to workers. As such, Schelte spent fourteen months in prison on the charge of war crimes, The Guardian reports.

The ship has actually had the name for years and it was known all over the world. Why then would the ship suddenly be forced to change its name, when it had had no problem before? It’s because the ship sailed into Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where people do not so easily forget injustices. British and Netherlands Jewish groups are among the most vocal against the presence of the ship.

Originally, Edward Heerema would not bow under pressure to change the name of a ship proudly named after his father. Yet as the protests went on he decided that changing the name would be a small price to pay to allow the ship to resume its purpose. Its job was to dismantle the Brent Delta platform belonging to Royal Dutch Shell.

Royal Dutch Shell had also been vocal in lobbying for the name change.  As soon as the announcement went out that the name would be changed, the company stated they would be happy to resume working with Allseas.

The ship has been renamed to Pioneering Spirit keeping the initials, P.S. and the link to the war criminal.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE