US May Allow Lawsuits for French Rail's Holocaust Complicity

US lawmakers have introduced legislation opening the door to lawsuits against France's state-owned rail company for wartime deportations

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Gabe Kahn., | updated: 09:35

Carolyn Maloney (D)
Carolyn Maloney (D)

American lawmakers have introduced legislation that opens the door to lawsuits against France's state-owned rail company (SNCF) over its role in shipping Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust, the French news aganecy AFP reports.

"Nothing will ever make up for the atrocities undertaken by Nazi Germany and its collaborators -- but every bit of justice is important," said Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, one of the bill's lead sponsors.  "This bill allows some measure of justice and closure for those who have suffered."

The bill comes as a bipartisan response to SNCFs position that it is immune to legal action under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, its authors said last Thursday. The companny has formally expressed remose over the deportation of 75,000 French Jews to German death-camps, but it abdicated responsibility for its complicity, saying they were forced by the Nazi occupied Vichy regime to comply.

The bill comes at a time when SNCF is bidding on a $2.6-billion rail project linking the Florida cities of Orlando and Florida, which is a part of President Obama's multi-billion dollar initiative to improve rail service in the United States. The bill, currently in the House of Representatives, would have to be ratified by the Senate and signed by Obama, to become law.

In California last year, where the SNCF is also pursuing large rail contracts, lawmakers tried to pass a law obliging bidders to disclose involvement in wartime deportations. It was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.