The Czech town of Vratislavice nad Nisou is removing signs commemorating native son Ferdinand Porsche, following protests over the car designer’s Nazi affiliation during World War II.
The town of about 6,500 people will erase references that it’s Porsche’s birthplace from its welcome signs, Mayor Ales Preisler said in a phone interview today. A local exhibition of memorabilia was changed a month ago to include information about Porsche’s membership in the elite Nazi SS defense corps, according to Preisler.
“We have met opposition from the regional Jewish community and from residents who unfortunately lost their relatives in concentration and labor camps,” he said from the town about 110 km (about 70 miles) northeast of Prague. “No one can deny that Porsche was an engineering genius, but it is also right to talk about the dark side and not hide it.”
The creator of the Volkswagen Beetle and Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK and founder of today’s Porsche sports-car brand designed tanks and other armaments used by Nazi Germany in World War II. French authorities arrested Porsche after the war and detained him for 22 months, according to the company’s website.
Critics of the exhibition and welcome signs have filed criminal complaints with police, saying the town is promoting Nazism, according to Preisler. Authorities have not acted on the accusations, he said.
Milan Bumba, chairman of the Porsche Classic Club in Vratislavice, an association of Porsche car owners, criticized the removal of Porsche’s name from the welcome signs. In a statement on the club’s website, he called on sympathizers to supply evidence that Porsche was not an active SS member.
“It’s silly that 65 years after Porsche came back from the French prison, where they proved no direct Nazi activities, some people are pulling out these unfounded accusations only to smear the good name of the automobile-engineering genius,” Bumba said. “We are launching a campaign to clear the name of Ferdinand Porsche.”
Porsche was born in 1875 in Maffersdorf, as Vratislavice was then called by its German speaking population, and died in 1951 in Stuttgart, according to the Porsche website.