News / USA

    New Maryland Rail Line Stirs Up Holocaust Reparations Debate

    New Maryland Rail Line Stirs Up Holocaust Reparations Debatei
    X
    Carla Babb
    March 28, 2014 6:54 PM
    During World War II, France’s state-run railway the Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais, or SNCF, transported thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi prison camps. Today, the same rail company is the majority stockholder bidding on a light rail project in the U.S. state of Maryland. Some Maryland lawmakers are pushing for SNCF to pay reparations to Holocaust victims and their families before participating in the project. VOA’s Carla Babb reports from Silver Spring, Maryland.
    During World War II, France’s state-run railway, the Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais, or SNCF, transported thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps.  Today, the same rail company is the majority stockholder bidding on a light rail project in the U.S. state of Maryland.  Some Maryland lawmakers are pushing for SNCF to pay reparations to Holocaust victims and their families before participating in the project.  

    “The suffering didn’t end in the gas chambers and the crematoria of Auschwitz,” said Maryland resident Ellen Lightman. Her aunt, two grandparents and two great-grandparents were among 76,000 people - mostly Jews - transported by SNCF trains to Nazi death camps.

    “And there was always this hole about what were they really like," she wonders.

    During World War II, France was overrun by German troops, and French trains and rail employees were placed under Nazi control.

    “They were paid per head, per kilometer to transport people. Human beings! They were complicit and they need to be held accountable," she said.

    “SNCF did not do it. The Nazis did it," said Alain Leray, president of SNCF America

    “Eight hundred [SNCF employees] were executed because they had disobeyed orders," he said. "Another 1,200 were deported and murdered in deportation. So when I hear that we were somehow complicit, were we really complicit with more than 2,100 of our employees being murdered by the Nazis?”

    International agreements between France, which controls SNCF, and other countries have already provided remedies for Holocaust victims.

    “It is actually the French government that needs to get off the dime and provide for the U.S. what it has for four other countries," said international law professor Mark Lagon.

    Some worry that pushing SNCF to pay reparations now could damage current French-American negotiations.

    “I feel the opposite,"said Lagon. "It’s, in a sense, the bad cop that allows negotiations to take place successfully with a good cop in the executive branch."

    For SNCF, billions of dollars are at stake ahead of fast approaching bidding deadlines.

    For Lightman, justice has no expiration date. Holding a letter marked “return to sender” sent to her grandfather after he was transported out of a Nazi concentration camp for Jews in Gurs, France, she vows to fight on, continuing to speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves.

    “There is no cutoff for forgetting or not remembering," said Lightman.

    Officials involved in the negotiations say they hope to settle the dispute on Holocaust reparations for U.S. citizens by the end of summer.  That is well within the timeframe for building the new line here, since the winning bid will be selected in 2015.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: David
    March 28, 2014 2:51 PM
    Reparation in some form should be made on the Company who need to show remorse and empathy. Shocking that it has taken this long for reparation to be made and Germany too, should make a contribution for their part as well. How good it would be if they did, out of moral honesty, over this tragic past.

    by: Joseph Effiong from: calabar - nigeria
    March 28, 2014 12:16 PM
    Our today's doing can affect us positively or negatively for even a million years. Hitler's wickedness will never be forgotten .

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora