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.
Carla Babb
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.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid