LOS ANGELES (JTA) — France’s railroad system will have to fully disclose its role in transporting Jews to Nazi concentration camps to get part of a lucrative contract to build a California rail line.
Under provisions of the state Legislature’s Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act, companies submitting bids for California’s 800-mile bullet train line must disclose “whether they had a direct role in Holocaust transportation” and have subsequently provided remedial action or restitution to victims of deportations during World War II.
Assembly Bill 619 was passed in a unanimous bipartisan vote on June 29 by the Assembly’s Housing and Transportation Committee.
The bill’s language does not single out any company by name, but the measure’s chief sponsor, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, left no doubt that the main target is the French national railway SNCF.
The bill’s wording includes a vivid description of the inhumane conditions under which Jews and others were transported to concentration camps. Also included are charges that SNCF profited by participating in the deportations, and “has never admitted its actions, disclosed its records or been held accountable to victims.”
Blumenfield, a Democrat, is optimistic that the bill will be approved by the full Assembly and state Senate, be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and go into effect by the beginning of next year.
The financial stakes are high in construction of the bullet train system, which is expected to zip passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Sacramento at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour.
“This is a $43 billion project, with the actual cost probably much higher," Blumenfield said. Construction is expected to start next year.
SNCF has considerable experience in operating a high-speed train system and is expected to seek a role as one of the three or four main contractors on the project, with likely earnings in the billions of dollars.