Yad Vashem
Yad VashemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The National Company of French Railways (SNCF) signed an agreement with the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on Wednesday to launch a new joint research initiative that would uncover information regarding the deportations of French Jews to death camps during the Nazi occupation.

As part of the agreement, SNCF will provide research into 80 mass transports of French Jews during WWII to form part of Yad Vashem’s “Transports to Extinction: Shoah Deportation Database” project.

SNCF’s senior vice president, Bernard Emsellem, claimed this new agreement “strengthens SNCF’s commitment to complete transparency, acknowledgement of the past and commitment to remembrance of the victims of the tragedy of the Holocaust”.

"This research embodies a pedagogic perspective towards educating future generations to never forget," a Yad Vashem statement quoted him as saying.

"The 'Final Solution' could not have been carried out by the Germans without the extensive cooperation of many people at all levels of society and governments throughout Europe," said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Memorial. "This research highlights the unique role of the transports in the extermination of the Jewish people.”

In February, SNCF said it had handed over digital copies of its archives for the period covering World War II to three Holocaust museums, including Yad Vashem, to help the work of researchers and reinforce the company's policy of transparency about its past, the AFP reported.

President of SNCF Guillaume Pepy admitted last year that the company had been "a cog in the Nazi extermination machine" during the occupation of France, deporting 76,000 Jews to death camps and destinations in France between 1942 and 1945.

In 1995, France's president Jacques Chirac acknowledged that under the Vichy regime, France collaborated with the German occupiers and had "seconded" the slaughter.