(February 9, 2023 / JNS) Siemens AG, the largest manufacturing company in Europe, signed a contract with a Turkish firm to provide high-speed trains that reportedly includes a promise to boycott Israel.
The deal between the multinational’s Turkish subsidiary, Siemens AŞ, and the Turkish state railway TCDD triggered outrage in some German media outlets and among German and American-Jewish human rights activists.
Südwestrundfunk (SWR), a public broadcaster serving the southwest of Germany, first reported on the agreement in early February. “The condition for the deal was that Siemens signed a declaration of boycott of Israel, otherwise the sale threatened not to go through. This emerges from internal company documents that are available to SWR,” it reported.
JNS on Thursday asked Florian Martini, a spokesman for Siemens, for a copy of the 189-page contract. Martini told JNS, “Please understand that we basically cannot reveal any confidential documents.”
The agreement between Siemens and Turkey, signed in 2018, was valued at €341 million (about $368 million). The deal to provide 10 high-speed trains to Turkey was later expanded to encompass as many as 12.
Siemens submitted a “sworn declaration,” according to SWR’s review of the internal documents, that obligated it to agree to the boycott Israel clause.
The Turkish state railway “applied for a loan from the Saudi Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) for eight of the 10 trains. And according to its [the bank’s] principles, it requires ‘that the tender clearly state that the goods, works and/or related services supplied by the contractor and its partners and subcontractors are in strict accordance with the boycott regulations of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the League of Arab states and the African Union,’” SWR reported.
Siemens’s signature on the deal is a violation of section 7 of Germany’s export law that bars the signing of such a boycott statement, noted SWR. The maximum penalty for signing a pro-boycott clause is €500,000 (some $539,000).
Martini told JNS, “Neither Siemens AG nor Siemens Turkey signed a boycott declaration in 2018 in connection with the tender for high-speed trains. In the course of our business activities, Siemens AG strictly complies with all national and international laws and regulations. We have been active in Israel for around 60 years in various business areas and are deeply rooted there.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JNS that if the German media reports are accurate then “Siemens will forever be inexorably linked with the genocidal Nazi Germany. Siemens profited from the Nazis’ Aryanization program which expropriated Jewish businesses and properties. It was key to Germany’s illegal rearmament which was launched by Hitler soon after he became chancellor in 1933 and enabled Hitler to plan and execute WWII.”
He continued, “From 1940 onwards, Siemens relied on slave labor—literally cashing in on the Nazis’ ‘Death through work’ policy. Siemens ran factories in the Holocaust Kingdom—at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck, Flossenburg, Sachsenhausen and other camps—Jews, Gypsies, POWs were literally worked to death.
“So what has the Siemens company learned from its deadly legacy of economic exploitation of genocide in the last century? Its willingness to embrace the Arab boycott of the Jewish state proves that it always was and remains ‘profits über alles.’”
Martini told JNS, “Siemens does acknowledge its history. This includes the company’s actions during the National Socialist era. Today’s management and employees of the company deeply regret that Siemens allowed people to work against their will during this period when the company was involved in the wartime economy of the National Socialist regime of injustice. Aware of this, the company is therefore committed in many ways to living up to its responsibility in the face of its history.”
Volker Beck, the head of the German-Israel Friendship Association, said he will file a complaint in order to have the Munich-based Siemens’s actions legally reviewed, reported SWR.
JNS reached out to the Bavarian state commissioner for Jewish Life and Combating Antisemitism, Ludwig Spaenle, and the state ministry overseeing the fight against antisemitism, for comment.
Long-term observers say that Spaenle and the Bavarian government do not want to criticize Siemens because of the state’s economic interests.
Siemens has also faced criticism over the decades for its business activities in Iran. Spaenle also declined to comment on Bavarian business relations with Iran’s regime, the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial, according to the U.S. government, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt.
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