Ajax NDP candidate Steve Parish under fire for street named after German ship captain


Published January 24, 2022 at 4:47 pm

Former Ajax Mayor Steve Parish (centre) has apologized for the naming of a street after a Nazi officer in 2007.

Pickering-Uxbridge’s New Democratic Party president, Emma Cunningham, has resigned her position voicing discontent with a party she says is a “space that is unwelcoming to Jews,” after they nominated Steve Parish, Ajax’s former Mayor who named a street after a Nazi naval officer during his tenure.

Ajax is named after a vessel involved in the 1939 Battle of River Plate, one of the first Allied victories of the Second World War, in a conflict then dominated by the rapid expansion of Nazi Germany.

The town, then a nameless munitions producer, chose Ajax in honour of the victory and numerous roads were named after the participants of the battle such has Admiral Henry Harwood, who commanded the allied ships. 

However, another involved naval officer got street named after him in 2007: German Captain Hans Langsdorff, who commanded the Admiral Graf Spee warship Harwood was sent to the South American seas to destroy.

Harwood’s three vessel convoy trapped the Graf Spee in the Montevideo, Uruguay port after a lengthy firefight. Adolf Hitler commanded Langsdorff to fight to the last man, but Langsdorff defied the Fuhrer by scuttling his ship and saving the lives of his crew.

While Harwood went on to be promoted and acclaimed from his victory in the years after the battle, Langsdorff ended his own life in an Argentine hotel room days after the fight, dying on the ship’s seal in a symbolic act of going down with his ship.

Some 60 years later, Langsdorff Drive was named after the late captain, in a ceremony attended by his daughter and overseen by Parish, who had been mayor since 1995. Town council had unanimously supported the naming.

Much of the argument for naming the street after Langsdorff was that he was not a typical Nazi. He reportedly treated prisoners-of-war, taken captive from the numerous Allied vessels he sank, very well. After the sinking of the Graf Spee, he was photographed giving a traditional naval salute instead of the Nazi raised-arm.

Parish remained mayor until he announced his retirement from politics years later in 2018. The street remained Langsdorff Drive until last June when it was renamed to honor V.G. Croker, an Allied seaman killed in the battle.

Cunningham said in a twitter thread explaining her resignation that Parish’s nomination is the latest in a series of antisemitic incidents in the NDP. “The Party nominated Tasleem Riaz, who shared a pro-Hitler meme. There have been active grassroots members who have shared pro-Nazi memes as well. In 2020, there was Sidney Coles who accused Israel of stealing vaccines,”she said.

These are just some examples of a pattern. I have tried to work with the NDP but… now there’s [Steve Parish]. Right next door to me,” she continued, “Although the street was renamed, it’s unacceptable for any party, particularly a progressive one, to run Parish as a candidate.”

Parish responded in a nomination meeting January 23 saying, “I want to say clearly and unequivocally that the Nazi regime that ruled in Germany from 1933 to 1945 was the most evil regime in the history of humankind,” Parish said.

“I am profoundly and completely sorry and I offer my complete, unconditional and most sincere apology,” Parish said regarding the pain the Jewish community felt over the naming.

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