Maryland House passes Holocaust train bill

(JTA) — France’s national railroad must publish its World War II-era records if its American subsidiary is to win a Maryland train contract.

Under legislation approved unanimously Monday by the Maryland House of Delegates, SNCF must catalog and put online records relating to its transportation of 76,000 Jews and other prisoners from the suburbs of Paris to the German border from 1942 to 1944. The company was paid per head per kilometer to deport the Nazi victims, according to reports. Critics say that since the war, the company has refused to apologize for its actions.

SNCF owns Keolis America, which is bidding to run two lines of the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train service. The company says it can complete the required work in less than six months, according to reports. 

To become law, the bill would have to be reconciled with a previously passed Senate version.

The California state legislature passed a bill similar to the Maryland one, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure. Last year, Keolis won a contract to run Virginia’s commuter rail.

The company has defended itself by saying its employees were under the control of the occupying Nazi forces. SNCF has posted material on its website claiming that “many railway workers took part in the French resistance.”

Separately, bills introduced earlier this month in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Senate, and by a bipartisan slate of top lawmakers, would make SNCF and other railroads that transported Jews during the Holocaust subject to lawsuits in federal courts.

“This is a bill which seeks to protect the legal rights of Holocaust survivors and hold accountable the railroad companies that profited from deporting Jews and other victims to Nazi concentration camps,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one of the bill’s sponsors.  “Congress must pass this bill to bring a semblance of justice to the survivors and families of victims of this horrific chapter in world history.” 

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