France fined for WW2 Jewish rail deportations

7th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

TOULOUSE, France, May 16, 2006 (AFP) - In the first case of its kind, the French state and the country's national rail operator, the SNCF, were fined 62,000 euros (80,000 dollars) on Tuesday for their role in the deportation of two Jewish men in World War II.

TOULOUSE, France, May 16, 2006 (AFP) - In the first case of its kind, the French state and the country's national rail operator, the SNCF, were fined 62,000 euros (80,000 dollars) on Tuesday for their role in the deportation of two Jewish men in World War II.

An administrative court in the southern city of Toulouse upheld a lawsuit brought by the family of Green party deputy Alain Lipietz, whose father and uncle were taken by train to an internment camp in Paris in May 1944. Both survived the war.

Previous attempts to condemn the SNCF in criminal and civil courts have failed and the current case rested on claims that the French state authorities, the police and the SNCF failed in their duty to provide services to citizens.

Lipietz said it was a "historic victory".

"It is the first time in history that the state and the SNCF as such have been condemned. The court recognised that these were not the actions of individuals or of some collaborator or another but the responsibility of the state," he said.

In the past judges have ruled that the SNCF was commandeered during the war by the occupying German army, while the Vichy government was an aberration for which the post-war French state was not responsible.

But at last month's hearing Lipietz said the jurisprudence had changed since 1995, when President Jacques Chirac recognised France's role in the oppression of Jews, and 1997, when the trial of Vichy official Maurice Papon proved the participation of the government in the deportations.

Lipietz's lawyer Remi Rouquette said that "in the round-ups, it was not the Gestapo but the French authorities who took action".

The SNCF will appeal against the court's decision, according to the rail carrier's lawyer Yves Baudelot said late on Tuesday.

"The SNCF is going to appeal. We do not understand this conviction," Baudelot said. He added that the ruling contradicted studies done by the French national research centre, the CNRS, to which the SNCF provided open access to its archives.

The railway "acted under orders from the regime without any room to manoeuvre", he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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