On anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Reps. Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen call on Maryland Transportation Department to sever ties with French rail company that aided Nazis and refuses to compensate victims

Jan 28, 2014
Press Release

SCNF has refused to pay restitution to victims, now could get contract for DC region’s Purple Line

WASHINGTON— Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) today sent a letter to Maryland’s Department of Transportation requesting that the state sever ties with a French rail firm that aided the Nazi’s during World War II. Today is the 69th anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Maryland’s Department of Transportation recently announced that Keos, 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. SNCF, which collaborated with the Nazi’s to transfer more than 76,000 Jews and thousands of other “undesirables” to concentration camps, has yet to provide restitution to victims.

 “SNCF refuses to hold itself accountable for its role in the Holocaust, and ignores a moral obligation to the survivors and veterans who are taxpayers of Maryland,” wrote Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen. “While we look forward to the innovative Purple Line, we do not believe that it should be done through the partnership of Keos as an entity of 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 provides plaintiffs the right to seek damages against SCNF in U.S. Federal Court for its transportation of French and other Jews, as well as thousands of others, toward such death camps as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. SNCF claims immunity from legal action due to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, yet the FSIA was passed 30 years after the action causing the damages for which the plaintiffs seek. The bill allows the plaintiffs to sue regardless of the strictures of the FSIA.

The full text of the letter Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen sent to Maryland Secretary of Transportation James T. Smith Jr. follow:

January 27, 2014

James T. Smith Jr.
Secretary
Maryland Department of Transportation
7201 Corporate Center Drive
Hanover MD 21076

Dear Secretary Smith,
 

            We write to you regarding the recent decision by the Maryland Department of Transportation to select Keolis as a finalist in the bid for the proposed Purple Line Light Rail extension. Keolis’ majority owner is Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) France’s national rail company that has yet to provide restitution to tens of thousands of holocaust victims for its role in willingly collaborating with the Nazis during World War II.  While we believe the proposed Purple Line is an exciting new private-public partnership venture for Maryland, Keolis, as a part of SNCF, should be reevaluated as a finalist for the 35-year contract.         

During World War II, more than 76,000 Jews and thousands of other “undesirables,” including U.S. pilots shot down over France, were transported from France toward Nazi death camps aboard trains operated by SNCF.  The rail company collaborated with the Nazis, operating the trains as a commercial venture, and was paid per head, per kilometer to deliver tens of thousands to their deaths. However, the company has yet to pay reparations to its victims.

If awarded, the State of Maryland’s contract with SNCF for the Purple Line may be paid out of the very pockets of taxpayers who the company once willingly transported to the death camps. While we look forward to the innovative Purple Line, we do not believe that it should be done through the partnership of Keolis as an entity of SNCF until its victims are awarded their long overdue justice.

We urge the Maryland Department of Transportation to take into consideration the relationship between Keolis and SNCF as it reviews finalists for the Purple Line, and to not ignore its moral obligation to the Holocaust survivors who proudly call Maryland home.

Sincerely,

Carolyn B. Maloney

Member of Congress

 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Member of Congress