French Railways wins appeal


A French appeals court overturned a decision ordering the
national railway to compensate two Jews deported by
its trains in Nazi-occupied France. Tuesday’s ruling in Bordeaux might affect a larger class-action suit filed against the SNCF system in similar cases.

The appeals court accepted the SNCF argument that the case, first brought to
trial in June 2006, was not within the jurisdiction of the Toulouse
administrative court, which had ordered SNCF to pay some $81,000 to the family of George Lipietz.

Lipietz, a Polish-born Jew, was 15 when French
police arrested him and his brother. The two were taken in a cattle car to
the Drancy transit camp on the outskirts of Paris. Lipietz spent three
months at the camp before being liberated at the end of the war. Most Jews held at Drancy were sent to the Auschwitz death camp.

Lipietz died after launching the complaint in 2001, but
family members, including his son Alain, a Green Party member of the European
Parliament, continued the case. They succeeded in establishing shared responsibility of SNCF and the French
government for the deportation. That ruling, the first of its kind in France, opened the door to a
class-action suit involving up to 1,800 plaintiffs, which is expected to be
deliberated in the coming year.

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