US bill targets French rail over Holocaust

18th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

US lawmakers have introduced legislation that aims to allow lawsuits against France's state-owned rail company SNCF over its role in hauling Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.

The measure seeks to counter the SNCF's argument that it is immune to legal action thanks to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the new proposal's Republican and Democratic authors said as they unveiled it Thursday.

"Nothing will ever make up for the atrocities undertaken by Nazi Germany and its collaborators -- but every bit of justice is important," said Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, one of the bill's lead sponsors.

"This bill allows some measure of justice and closure for those who have suffered," she said.

The measure has been introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate, which would need to pass identical legislation to send it to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The bill aims to clear a legal path for Holocaust survivors and their heirs to sue the SNCF, which is seeking lucrative contracts to build high-speed rail in the United States.

The company has formally expressed remorse and insisted it was forced by France's World War II German occupiers to help deport 75,000 French Jews to the gas chambers, and noted that 2,000 of its own rail workers were executed.

The SNCF is bidding on a $2.6-billion rail project linking the Florida cities of Orlando and Tampa that is part of Obama's multi-billion-dollar initiative to improve rail service across the Unites States.

In California, where the SNCF is interested in another rail project, lawmakers tried last year to pass a law obliging bidders to disclose details of their involvement in wartime deportations. It was vetoed.

© 2011 AFP

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