French state railways to help Holocaust research

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France's state rail firm SNCF signed an agreement with the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum Wednesday to boost research into the deportations of French Jews to death camps during World War II.

A spokeswoman for the Jerusalem museum told AFP that SNCF would provide it with testimonies and personal memories, as well as a contribution to the broader documentation of the approximately 80 mass transports of Jews from France.

"The 'Final Solution' could not have been carried out by the Germans without the extensive cooperation of many people at all levels of society and governments throughout Europe," Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said in a statement.

"This research highlights the unique role of the transports in the extermination of the Jewish people."

SNCF senior vice president Bernard Emsellem said his firm's contribution "strengthens SNCF's commitment to complete transparency, acknowledgment of the past and commitment to remembrance of the victims of the tragedy of the Holocaust."

"This research embodies a pedagogic perspective towards educating future generations to never forget," the Yad Vashem statement quoted him as saying.

In February, SNCF said it had handed over digital copies of its archives for the period covering World War II to three Holocaust museums, including Yad Vashem, to help the work of researchers and reinforce the company's policy of transparency about its past.

SNCF president Guillaume Pepy last year admitted the company had been "a cog in the Nazi extermination machine" during the occupation of France.

Goods trains carried 76,000 Jews to death camps and destinations in France between 1942 and 1945.

In 1995, France's then president Jacques Chirac acknowledged that the French state, under the Vichy regime that collaborated with the German occupiers, had "seconded" the slaughter.

© 2012 AFP

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