US lawmakers take aim at French rail for Holocaust role

2 min

Two US lawmakers are pushing to disqualify a subsidiary of France’s national railway company from bidding for a €4.4 billion US contract over its role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II.


State Senator Joan Carter Conway has introduced a bill in Maryland’s state legislature that would ban the Keolis transport firm, whose majority stakeholder is France’s national railway company SNCF, from bidding on a €4.4 billion contract.

Conway and fellow Democratic lawmaker Samuel Rosenberg say Keolis should be kept out of the bidding process unless SNCF compensates the families of Holocaust victims.

Several US lawmakers have in the past called on the SNCF to take responsibility for its role in the transport of 76,000 Jews from France to Nazi death camps.

“SNCF’s refusal to fully acknowledge its role in the Holocaust and its recent attempt to rewrite history is insulting to its victims and deeply troubling,” Conway has said.

The bid concerns a 25-kilometre stretch of railway in the East Coast state.

Discrimination against French firm

Alain Leray, president of SNCF America, told the AFP news agency that the company would examine the bill to determine whether it discriminated against the French firm.

In the past, SNCF has resisted pressure to take direct responsibility for the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz and other death camps, claiming it had been requisitioned by the Vichy regime that collaborated with the German occupiers.

But in 2010 the company's chairman, Guillaume Pepy, met in Florida with US representatives and Jewish community groups to express his regret for SNCF's wartime role.

Pepy said he wished to share "his profound pain and regret for the consequences of acts ... carried out under order".

In 2011 the French company reiterated its remorse, saying it had been “forced to act as a cog in the Nazi extermination machine”.

But it has so far refused to pay compensation to Holocaust survivors and the families of the victims.

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