01 July 2010
The state-owned French railway company SNCF may disclose details about the role it played in transporting Jews to the Nazi death camps during World War II. The announcement follows pressure from lawmakers in California’s state legislature, where is bill is expected to be passed that requires companies seeking state business to reveal any involvement in the Nazi camps.
"It is our intention to fully comply with the bill," Peter Kelly, an attorney for SNCF, which is working on a bid to win a contract with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, was quoted by the news agency AP as saying.
The bill would require companies that want to help build or operate California's US$ 45 billion high-speed rail system to reveal whether they transported victims to work, concentration, prisoner of war or extermination camps. As part of their bid, companies would have to provide records of their involvement and whether they took remedial steps for their action or paid restitution to victims.
Members of the Californian Senate’s Transportation Committee voted in favor of the measure on Tuesday. The railway authority has not taken a position, and neither legislative chamber has taken it up so far. Blumenfield said he was optimistic the bill would pass even though a legislative analysis noted that previous attempts at addressing Holocaust issues failed. The Supreme Court ruled a 1999 California law that sought insurance claims for California residents who were Holocaust victims as unconstitutional because it infringed upon the president's power to resolve foreign policy issues.
Blumenfield said he was not seeking restitution, but believed that taxpayers had a right to know how their money was spent. "This bill is not about the past, it's about the present and whether companies asking for California dollars acknowledge their wrongdoing and some way made right by it," Blumenfield said. SNCF, commissioned and released a study in 2000 about its wartime operations. The Democratic Assemblyman said the study concluded that because SNCF was taken over by the Nazis during the German occupation, French railway workers were acting under duress when they transported people to the camps.
Meanwhile, a list of French citizens who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II will be published in a few years time. The files, which were hidden in cardboard boxes in the basement of the Paris Police Museum, include information passed on to the Nazis by Frenchmen who lived during the 1940-44 occupation. They include French police logs with details of every arrest, fine and interview, according to the British newspaper ‘Daily Telegraph’.
The plan to make public the names of collaborators comes after last year's ruling in France's Supreme Court that French collaborators were not forced by the Nazis to betray their neighbors, but that it was done willingly, the paper reports. A 75-year gag order issued by the French postwar government protected the files. The files from 1940 will become public in 2015, with the rest of the documents becoming public over the next four years.
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