Survivors Not Railroaded By France


Nearly 100 Holocaust survivors – and their surviving spouses – who were forced to ride French railroad trains to Nazi death camps during World War II are in line to receive a total of $11 million in reparations, according to Stuart Eizenstat, the State Department’s special adviser on Holocaust issues.

His announcement follows transfer last November from the French government to the State Department of $60 million in reparations, the result of a 2014 decision by France. The French government had agreed to the reparations after survivors of the French-owned railroad, SNCF, repeatedly complained about their treatment by the railroad during hearings at which the railroad sought lucrative contracts with American municipalities.

Survivors said that not only did the Nazis force them to ride the railroad to the death camps but also that SNCF forced them to pay for the trip. In all, SNCF carried 76,000 Jews and other prisoners to the death camps; only about 2,000 survived to the war.

Three survivors also sued SNCF in U.S. federal court in Chicago in 2015. Their attorney, Harriet Tamen, said the reparations do not cover the heirs of those whose both parents were taken to their deaths by the SNCF. They will be covered by another French reparation program for orphans, Eizenstat said.

Eizenstat said survivors approved during the first round of review were receiving a lump sum payment of $204,000. Surviving spouses of survivors are receiving a payment of $51,000.

A team of six paralegals, two civil service officers and the legal advisers office is still evaluating paperwork and documentation submitted by the 700 remaining unpaid applicants.

Eizenstat said those who failed to submit applications by the May 2016 deadline could still submit them for a second round of filing that runs now through January 20, 2017. Applications submitted after the deadline will be considered for the second round of review and do not have to be resent.

Eizenstat said that what makes these reparations unique is the fact that heirs can collect twice – both for the survivor who died and for his or her spouse who also died after 1948. He said that depending on how much of the $60 million is left, there might also be a third round for submissions. After that, any money still remaining in the interest bearing account would be divided among all recipients.

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