Activists from political organization Stop the Bomb distributed fliers to the 3,500 stockholders of the German engineering and steel giant ThyssenKrupp here in this industrial city on Thursday, charging that 4.5 percent of the company's stocks are in the hands of the Iranian government. Alexander Wilke, a spokesman for ThyssenKrupp, told The Jerusalem Post that the engineering conglomerate conducted roughly €200 million in trade last year with Iran.
The protest in front of the RuhrCongress center at the annual stockholder meeting took place in the wake of a joint Monday appearance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where both government heads urged tougher sanctions on Iran.
German corporations such as ThyssenKrupp have ignored Merkel's pleas to walk away from Iran business as part of her administration's non-binding "discouragement strategy."
While ThyssenKrupp has declined to disclose the specific nature and scope of its business deals with Teheran, Michael Spaney, a Stop the Bomb spokesman and critical company shareholder, asked at the annual stockholder meeting if ThyssenKrupp "is certain that its projects are not tied to the Revolutionary Guards." According to economic experts, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps are thought to control the overwhelming majority of Iran's companies.
Ekkehard D.Schulz, CEO of ThyssenKrupp, replied that the company "is not aware of involvement with the Revolutionary Guards" but is "dealing with construction companies" in Iran.
The European Parliament is currently debating a Dutch proposal to place the Revolutionary Guards on the European Union terror list. The Dutch Parliament justified its resolution by citing the Revolutionary Guard's role in violently repressing the Iranian population and financing radical Islamic terror organizations, such as Hamas and Hizbullah.
According to ThyssenKrupp spokesman Wilke, subsidiaries of the parent corporation are involved in the "chemical, systems engineering, cement [and] railway" sectors. Uhde and Polysius, both subsidiaries of ThyssenKrupp, are building cement and chemical plants in Iran. ThyssenKrupp delivered a "container ship" to Teheran, said Wilke.
German critics of German-Iranian trade argue that companies in the Federal Republic are repeating their Nazi-era corporate behavior by launching deals with the regime in Teheran, which mirrors the eliminationist views of the Hitler movement.
ThyssenKrupp used slave laborers during World War II to advance the Nazis' war campaign. The firm's president during the Nazi period, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials.
Sebastian Mohr, a Stop the Bomb activist who helped coordinate the protest, told the Post
that this is "business as usual... A firm that used over 10,000 slave laborers during World War II... and despite the threats to annihilate Israel and the permanent denial of the Shoah on the part of Iranian regime, ThyssenKrupp has maintained a close economic relationship with the Iranian regime for decades."
Ekkehard D.Schulz, CEO of ThyssenKrupp, said regarding the "support of a anti-Semitic and terror regime in Iran, it is not ThyssenKrupp's responsibility to issue a statement. That is a function of the federal government."
The pro-Israel organization Stop the Bomb has employed creative protest tactics at stockholder meetings over the years, involving such heavyweight German and Austrian companies as Siemens, OMV and Linde, which maintain intensive trade relations with Iran. Stock purchases, for example, have allowed Stop the Bomb activists to pose uncomfortable questions to the top management about the role of German-Iranian trade in undercutting the security of Israel and Europe.
Jannis Stenzel, a Stop the Bomb activist, told the Post
that the protest revolves around stopping Thyssen's trade with the Islamic Republic because it financially supports the Iranian regime. The goal of Stop the Bomb is to "weaken the regime" in order to support the pro-democracy movement in Iran and stop the country from attaining an atomic bomb.