Holocaust Ties No Obstacle for French Rail Project in Maryland

France's state-owned rail company transported 76,000 Jews and other prisoners to death camps; legislation to block rail line stalls.


France's state-owned rail company is free to bid for a $2.37 billion commuter rail contract in Maryland, after a proposal to keep out the railway because of its role in the Holocaust stalled this week, international media reported.

The Maryland General Assembly adjourned for the year Monday without voting on legislation that would have prohibited rail company SNCF from winning the contract through its U.S. arm, Keolis, until it paid reparations to people it transported during the Holocaust.

SNCF, which owns 70 percent of Keolis, transported 76,000 Jews and other prisoners to Nazi death camps when it was seized by the Germans during the Nazi occupation of France.

The company has recognized its role in the Holocaust, but says that any compensation is an internal French matter, Radio France Internationale reported.

Some Holocaust survivor groups say the French railway has not taken full responsibility for its links to the Holocaust, The Washington Post reported.

The legislation, which never got past committee hearings, would have complicated U.S.-French talks underway to expand the French government's Holocaust compensation program to cover Americans, a U.S. official told the Post.

The proposal would have threatened $900 million in federal construction aid for the 16-mile rail line, the Post said, adding that Maryland officials say they can't afford to build the rail project without significant federal aid.