Maryland rail contract will not go to company with Holocaust-era ties

(JTA) – The Maryland subsidiary of a French company accused of not fully acknowledging its Holocaust complicity will not receive a $204 million contract with the state railway.

Keolis Rail Services America, a subsidiary of the French rail company known as SNCF, was among the firms beaten out in the bidding for a six-year contract to run two commuter lines, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The Maryland Department of Transportation is expected on Oct. 3 to ask the state’s Board of Public Works, which must approve state contracts, to give the job to Bombardier Transportation Services.

SNCF trains transported 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, according to reports. 

The company, owned by the French government, says it has acknowledged the role that its wartime management played in collaborating with the Nazis and given public apologies. It also has supported French Holocaust memorial efforts and research.

Holocaust survivors and their advocates contend, however,  that the company has failed to act quickly enough to make its archival materials accessible to researchers and is making the moves only to gain lucrative rail contracts in the United States.

A spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation said the controversy played no role in the contract decision, according to the Baltimore Sun.

In the spring of 2011, the Maryland General Assembly passed bills aimed at stopping any transportation company from being awarded state contracts until the state archivist agreed that those companies had fully disclosed their World War II-era activities in the deportation of individuals to extermination camps or death camps. It also said that those companies must disclose all records in their possession and detail restitution or reparations.

Holocaust survivors also are asking the U.S. Congress for permission to sue SNCF. Since the company is owned by the French government, federal permission is required to engage in legal action against it. 

The California Legislature passed a bill similar to the proposed Maryland one, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure. 

 
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