US starts paying out French reparations to Holocaust surviors

French complicity in wartime deportations was only officially acknowledged in 1995.

September 16, 2016 19:08
1 minute read.
Yad Vashem

A Holocaust survivor wears a yellow star during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Jews who were transported to Nazi death camps by way of French railway, and their heirs for those who are no longer living, were set to receive reparations from France, according to The Washington Post.

SNCF, the state owned railway of France was paid to transport Jews and prisoners to Nazi camps. In all, 76,000 people were transferred on their trains; they were usually not supplied with any food and were given a bucket to use as a toilet. Of the 76,000, only about 2,000 survived.

The reparations are the first from France for those who settled in the United States and were also open to all countries except Britain, Poland, Belgium and the Czech Republic, who previously had bilateral agreements with France.

Holocaust victims who are French nationals have also already received $60 million in reparations in a plan that was set in 1946, according to AFP. 

The current US plan was set to be the first time that heirs were included in a World War II reparations program, according to State Department officials.

Stuart Eizenstat, the State Department’s special adviser for Holocaust issues, stated, “In many ways, this is belated justice for the worst crimes in history, but it also underscores a long relationship with France.”

In 1995, France's then-president, Jacques Chirac, officially acknowledged, for the first time, French complicity in the wartime deportations. But it was only in 2009 that France's highest court recognized the state's responsibility.

Several state legislatures in the United States previously threatened to pass legislation that would block the SNCF from bidding on rail projects unless it paid compensation to US victims.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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