US lawmaker: Deny contract to French railway

28th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A US lawmaker said Tuesday that he planned legislation to bar France's state-run SNCF railway from lucrative US high-speed rail contracts for its role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps in World War II.

"No company whose trains carried innocent victims to death camps should have the right to lay the first inch of track in this country," Democratic Representative Ron Klein said in a statement.

Klein's bill, developed in concert with help from Holocaust survivors and their families, targeted the SNCF's bids on high-speech rail projects in his home state of Florida and in California.

"I am a strong supporter of high-speed rail for the economic benefits it will bring to Florida, but moving ahead with SNCF's bid doesn't represent progress, it represents a major step backward and a direct insult to Holocaust survivors and their families," Klein said.

The bill would require firms seeking high-speed rail contracts to disclose any participation on Holocaust-era deportations to Nazi concentration camps, and to have "resolved" the issue with the victims or their families.

The measure would explicitly apply to firms that were, or are, state-owned, such as the SNCF.

The legislation does not specify what "resolved" would mean, but a Klein aide indicated that the SNCF could reach that goal by settling a class-action lawsuit brought by a coalition Holocaust survivors.

California lawmakers voted in August to demand that bidders supply full details of any involvement in the deportations between 1942 and 1944, and of any reparations paid -- a requirement clearly aimed at the SNCF.

"We should not forget one thing: the SNCF, the railway workers were under the yoke of the Nazi occupiers, threatened with death... 2,000 railway workers were executed by the Nazis," SNCF chairman Guillaume Pepy said in late August.

Pepy, speaking to Europe 1 radio, said the company would give US authorities details of its role in the deportations.

© 2010 AFP

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