French gov’t to announce Holocaust rail reparations

(REUTERS/Charles Platiau)
(REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

The French government is expected to announce this summer how much it will pay in reparations to Holocaust survivors now living in America who were deported to Nazi death camps in French trains, according to Stuart Eizenstat, a special adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry on Holocaust issues.

Eizenstat, a D.C. lawyer, said there have been about four “informal discussions” between the French and American governments. As of the fall of last year, the French government took over negotiations on behalf of the rail company Society Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF).

SNCF transported 76,000 Jews and thousands of others to the death camps, according to Baltimore resident Leo Bretholz, who as a young man was forced onto one of these transports.

“We are not looking into issues of guilt. They admitted they did the wrong thing,” Eizenstat said of the French government. There has not been any talk about actual amounts of money, he said, adding French Holocaust survivors who rode the trains as well as their spouses have been paid a “really quite considerable” amount.

Keolis America, a U.S. affiliate of SNCF, has been invited to submit a bid to operate Maryland’s proposed Purple Line rail project but has come under scrutiny over the reparations issue.

The Coalition for Holocaust Justice, which has been speaking out for reparations for many years, said in a statement, “We welcome this news with cautious optimism, and we wholeheartedly support any negotiations that would provide fair and reasonable compensation to the victims and their families.”

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