US bill targets French rail company for Holocaust role
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US lawmakers are pushing a bill that would hold France's state-owned rail operator SNCF accountable for its role in transporting thousands of French Holocaust victims to their deaths during World War II.
US lawmakers have re-introduced legislation that seeks to hold the SNCF, France's state-owned rail company, accountable for its role in transporting Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.
US Senator Chuck Schumer led a bipartisan group of sponsors in introducing the measure late Wednesday that would hold the railway culpable in American courts.
The move would allow US victims to pursue lawsuits against the company, which argues that it is immune to legal action under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which limits the ways in which foreign countries can be sued in US court.
"Survivors and family members of those who perished have long attempted to hold SNCF accountable for its active role during the Holocaust, but so far the company has succeeded in cloaking itself in foreign sovereign immunity, evading jurisdiction in United States courts," Schumer said in a statement.
"The Holocaust Rail Justice Act would finally enable survivors and family members to hold this French rail company accountable in a court of law for sending thousands to their death during World War II, and allow survivors and family members an opportunity for justice."
Similar legislation was introduced during the previous Congress, in 2011, but the measure stalled.
SNCF has formally expressed remorse for the Nazi collaboration and insisted it was forced by France's World War II German occupiers to help deport 75,000 French Jews to Nazi death camps, and noted that 2,000 of its own rail workers were executed.
The company today is seeking taxpayer-funded rail contracts in the United States.
A victims group, the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice, applauded re-introduction of the bill, saying it would open avenues for legal action against SNCF if it passes Congress and is signed by President Barack Obama.
"It has been more than 70 years since the first SNCF transports from Drancy toward Nazi death camps, yet I still remember the haunting night I jumped from an SNCF train bound for Auschwitz as if it was yesterday," said Leo Bretholz, one of hundreds of victims seeking justice.
"Seventy years is far too long to wait for a company to accept responsibility for the death and suffering it caused," he said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)