French railways to open Nazi deportation files to US

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France's state rail company will give US authorities details of its role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps in support of its bid to build a high-speed railway in California, its chairman said Sunday.

"Twenty years ago we opened all our archives... we are going to open all that to the Americans," said the chairman of the SNCF national railway company, Guillaume Pepy, on Europe 1 radio.

The SNCF is making a joint bid with major French construction firm Alstom to build a high-speed track from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The project is valued at 43 billion dollars (34 billion euros) overall.

California lawmakers last week voted 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.

The Nazis occupying France in the 1940s used SNCF trains to take Jews to death camps. The company insists it was forced to take part in the deportations and that many of its workers resisted the occupation.

"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," Pepy said.

The Democrat lawmaker behind the Californian bill, Bob Blumenfield, said the SNCF "refuses to accept responsibility for its role in the Holocaust."

Pepy said the California lawmakers' demand for full disclosure was "legitimate" and that the French company had "nothing to hide".

© 2010 AFP

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