The Dutch government will in the coming days be required to explain why it has funded the construction of a ship named after prominent Nazi industrialist and Waffen-SS officer Pieter Schelte.
"Funding this ship was a mistake which is offensive to many people," Dutch legislator Sharon Gesthuizen, who recently filed a parliamentary query on the subject, told Haaretz on Friday. Gesthuizen has also called for the ship's name to be changed.
Gesthuizen's query concerns an 800,000 euro subsidy which the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs allocated in 2001 for the construction of the Pieter Schelte, a mega vessel which will become the world's largest ship after its launching after or during 2010.
The decision to name the ship after the late Nazi industrialist was made by the man's son, Edward Heerema, who is the president of the offshore giant which is building the megaship, Allseas.
A spokesperson for ministry told one local Dutch paper that funding was approved because "no alarm bells" had gone off during review. In accordance with Dutch law, the ministry is expected to provide a more detailed answer within the next two weeks.
"This is an unbelievable situation, where a fanatic Nazi is honored by having one of the world's largest ships named after him," investigative journalist Ton Biesemaat, who exposed the affair, said.
He added he found the affair "characteristic of the passivity and moral decline in Dutch society," and of a "desire to forget" inconvenient truths about Dutch collaboration with the Nazis in WWII.
Both Biesemaat, who is writing a book about Heerema's business empire, and Gesthuizen said they were surprised at how little attention the matter received in Dutch media.
Meanwhile, as the Peter Schelte was being constructed, the Israeli government commissioned Heerema's firm to participate in the Al Arish-Ashkelon pipeline installation project which was completed last year.