In light of Holocaust Remembrance Day, last Monday, local electeds led by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney are calling on the Societe Nationale des chemins de fer Francais (SNCF) to pay reparations for transporting thousands of Jews to concentration camps during WWII.
“SNCF has acknowledged its role in transporting victims, but has always refused to pay compensation for its actions, citing sovereign immunity,” said Maloney at a press conference Monday, marking the 61st Remembrance Day. “Survivors who live in the United States have been denied their day in court and have never received a dime in compensation from SNCF or the French government.”
Maloney along with City Council members Mark Levine and Benjamin Kallos are looking to create legislation that will take such organizations to task.
Maloney has led the charge on the subject having introduced the Holocaust Rail Justice Act in Congress last year along with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The Act is aiming to remove the immunity companies like SNCF currently enjoy against the payment of reparations.
The efforts on part of the elected officials primarily stems from SNCF’s westward expansion plans. The company has been attempting to bid for the Purple Line Rail Project, a 16-mile long light transit project in Maryland. SNCF has claimed it is exempt from any form of legal action due to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. But concerned elected officials have countered back by saying that the Act was introduced 30 years after WWII, and hence does not condone the atrocities committed at the time of the War.
Following Maloney’s charge, Levine and Kallos are set to introduce a City Council resolution that will call on the state legislature to prohibit companies that profited from the Holocaust and failed to pay reparations from contracting with businesses in the United States.
“We are all survivors and must never forget,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “My family is among millions of others to lose our loved ones in the Holocaust. For those corporations that profited from those deaths but failed to make the families of victims whole, I say, ‘we will never forget.‘”
Between March 1942 and August 1944, about 76,000 Jews were deported on SNCF trains from France to concentration camps in Nazi Germany, according to the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice, an organization that details such atrocities.
The SNCF was paid for each individual transported and every kilometer traveled to the camps. Fewer than 3 percent of the people who were forcefully transported on those trains survived their ordeal.
The State Department is currently negotiating with the SNCF in regards to the reparations, and elected officials are hoping that legislation will further cement that process.