Maryland bill to deny contracts to Holocaust complicit companies unless reparations are paid applauded by Reps. Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen

Feb 5, 2014
Press Release

SNCF refused to pay restitution but subsidiary may get contract to build DC region’s planned Purple Line

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) today applauded new legislation introduced in the Maryland state legislature that would deny contracts to companies that were complicit in the Holocaust unless those companies have paid restitution to the victims. Maryland’s Department of Transportation recently announced that Keolis, a company which is majority-owned by Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF), has been selected to bid on the Purple Line rail extension project. The bill introduced by Maryland State Senator Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) and Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery County) would automatically deny the contract to Keolis and SNCF due to their collaboration with the Nazis and refusal to provide any restitution to victims. 

“The bill introduced by State Senator Conway and Delegate Reznik would make it clear that Maryland does not contract with companies that have refused to own up to their involvement in the Holocaust and pay reparations,” said Maloney. “I recently visited Auschwitz where I saw the rail lines that transported millions to their death. I saw the gas chambers and the killing machines. The Holocaust was a horror the world should never see again, and that is why we must continue to send the message that those responsible will be held to account regardless of how long it takes. SNCF must do the right thing before we award a single contract to any of its affiliate operations in the United States.”

“I’m so pleased to see that State Senator Conway and Delegate Reznik of Maryland are standing up for justice, accountability and morality by introducing bicameral legislation that would require any company that was complicit in the deaths of Jews during the Holocaust, and is seeking taxpayer money for its projects, to first pay reparations to its victim,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “The mere fact that the Maryland Department of Transportation selected Keolis – whose parent company, SNCF, collaborated with the Nazis and transported tens of thousands of Jews, and thousands of other ‘undesirables’, to concentration camps and has yet to pay its victims reparations – as a finalist to bid on the Metro Purple Line project is unconscionable. This is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. That is why I will continue to work with Congresswoman Maloney to get the Holocaust Rail Justice Act passed in Congress to ensure that SNCF’s victims get their overdue justice.”

The legislation introduced by Conway and Reznik would require any entity that intends to enter a public-private partnership in the State of Maryland to disclose any involvement it or its affiliated companies had in the deportation of individuals toward extermination camps or death camps during the Holocaust. The entity must also disclose whether it or its affiliated companies have paid any reparations to the victims of such deportations. Failure to make these certifications or to certify that reparations have been paid will disqualify the entity from entering into a public-private partnership.

Keolis America is currently bidding for a 35-year, $6 billion public-private partnership contract to operate the Purple Line, the planned rail project in Maryland. More than 35,000 people have signed a Change.org petition posted by Leo Bretholtz, a Maryland resident and one of more than 1,000 Jews herded onto an SNCF train bound for Auschwitz on November 6, 1942, calling for SNCF to pay reparations.

During World War II, SNCF was paid per head, per kilometer to provide the trains, cars, and manpower necessary to deport approximately 76,000 Jews and thousands of other “undesirables” from France toward Nazi death camps. Since the war, the company has refused to take responsibility for its actions or to provide any measure of justice or reparations to the surviving victims and families of those who perished.

Congresswoman Maloney joined forces with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to send a letter to Maryland’s Department of Transportation requesting that the state sever all ties with SNCF.

Last year, Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Holocaust Rail Justice Act (H.R. 1505), which would provide Holocaust survivors their day in court against SNCF. The bill has not yet seen committee action.

Following her visit to Auschwitz, Maloney vowed to redouble her efforts to pass the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, saying: “Any promises of ’never again' and ‘never forget’ ring somewhat hollow, if we are willing to do business with a company that aided and abetted the Nazi killing machine. The world must not forget their collaboration with evil, even if they turn out to be the lowest bidder.”