U.S. News


Maryland Rail Project Linked To Holocaust

A French rail company might have to pay reparations to survivors living in the U.S. in order to win a Maryland rail bid.
Posted at 1:43 PM, Feb 22, 2014

American Holocaust survivors might soon receive reparation payments from a government-owned French railway that carried people to concentration camps.

The French train company SNCF's American subsidiary company, Keolis, is one of the rail companies being considered for a large new rail project in Maryland known as the Purple Line Project. (Via NECN)

Winning this contract would be a major coup for Keolis: the proposed 16-mile Purple Line comes with a 35-year contract worth more than $6 billion. (Via Maryland Transit Administration)

The Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice says SNCF transported 76,000 people through France to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. 

But the rail company didn't provide that information when it was chosen as one of four companies by the Maryland Department of Transportation to bid on the project. 

Outraged state lawmakers introduced legislation at the end of January that would require companies that had direct involvement in the Holocaust to pay reparations to surviving victims and their families. (Via The Gazette)

The Washington Post reports the French government has paid $6 billion in reparations to survivors who were transported on SNCF trains. But those survivors are French citizens. Deportees who ended up living in the U.S. never received any money.

92-year-old Maryland resident and Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz started an online petition to urge the government to require SNCF and Keolis to be held accountable.

In his Change.org petition, Bretholz wrote, "...the company has spent millions of dollars on a lobbying and public relations campaign to rewrite history and avoid accountability for its pivotal role in one of history's greatest atrocities." 

NPR says SNCF's American executives claim both the bill and online petition are not based on facts. Still, the French government is in talks with the State Department over possible reparations.

The Maryland Department of Transportation and the Transit Administration will choose which of the four companies receives the Purple Line Project. Both groups say they will consider the pending legislation requiring reparations. If passed, that would take effect July 1.