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 bylines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.