During her trip to Poland last week to observe the 69th anniversary of liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney stood by the rail line that transported more than a million men, women and children to their deaths.
One central fact of the Holocaust was inescapable. It could never have occurred on such a vast, methodical and murderously efficient scale, had it not been for transportation infrastructure of a modern industrial state. Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann’s willing collaborators made sure the death trains ran on time. Now, an affiliate of one of the same railroad companies that brought victims to the Nazi death camps could win a contract to build a new metro line in the Washington DC area.
In response, Maloney joined forces with Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to request that Maryland’s Department of Transportation (DOT) sever all ties with Keolis, a French rail company, which is majority-owned by Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) that aided the Nazis during World War II, but was never held accountable. Keolis was selected by Maryland’s DOT to bid on the state’s Purple Line rail extension project.
During World War II, SNCF collaborated with the Nazis to transfer more than 76,000 Jews and thousands of other “undesirables” to concentration camps, but has not provided any restitution to victims.
In a letter to James Smith Jr., Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen noted that “SNCF refuses to hold itself accountable for its role in the Holocaust, and ignores a moral obligation to the survivors and veterans who are taxpayers of Maryland…While we look forward to the innovative Purple Line, we do not believe that it should be done through the partnership of Keolis as an entity of SNCF.”
Last year Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which would provide Holocaust survivors their day in court against SNCF. The bill has not seen committee action as of yet.
Following her visit to Auschwitz, Maloney vowed to redouble her efforts to pass the Act. “Any promises of ’never again’ and ‘never forget’ ring somewhat hollow, if we are willing to do business with a company that aided and abetted the Nazi killing machine,” she said. “The world must not forget their collaboration with evil, even if they turn out to be the lowest bidder.”