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French railroad hands over WWII-era archives

(JTA) — SNCF, the French national railroad, has handed over digital copies of hits World War II–era archives.

The documents were transferred to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Shoah Memorial in Paris, SNCF said Feb. 3 in a statement.

The handover comes a year after SNCF President Guillaume Pepy admitted that the company participated in transferring Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

SNCF said in the statement that it is working to adhere to its policy of being transparent about its past.

Holocaust survivors in the United States are pressing Congress to allow lawsuits to go ahead against SNCF.

In May, Maryland enacted a law requiring the French national railroad to publish its Holocaust-era records if its U.S. subsidiary is to receive a state contract.

“While this action, taken nearly 70 years after World War II, is a victory for the many survivors and activists seeking transparency from SNCF, it is important to remember that SNCF only took this step in response to recently enacted legislation in Maryland requiring the digitization and online posting of Holocaust-era archives," Raphael Prober, an attorney who is representing the survivors on a pro bono basis, said in a statement. “What is important is SNCF still evades all accountability and has refused to pay reparations for its role in the deaths of so many thousands."

Between 1942 and 1944, the company sent trains loaded with French and foreign Jews from all over the country to Drancy and then to Bobigny, which are now low-income suburbs north of Paris. German trains made the final trip from both places to Auschwitz and other death camps. Some 75,720 Jews from France were deported; approximately 2,500 survived the Holocaust.

Though SNCF has initiated seminars and historical research on the company’s actions during the war, many claim the group never appropriately apologized or recognized the extent of its cooperation with Nazi rulers. The company traditionally has defended itself by saying its employees were under the occupier’s control.

 

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