Maryland law requires railroads to disclose Holocaust ties

State Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature marks first such legislation in US history.

By JORDANA HORN
May 23, 2011 07:43
1 minute read.
MARTIN O’MALLEY, governor of Maryland signs bill

MARTIN O’MALLEY, governor of Maryland 311. (photo credit: Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice)

 
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NEW YORK – In front of an audience of Holocaust survivors, the governor of Maryland last week signed legislation requiring any company seeking a commuter rail contract to make available any documents related to its participation in the Holocaust.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature marks the first such legislation in US history, and was triggered by a bid for commuter rail lines in Maryland from France’s national state-owned railroad company, SNCF.

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The company will now have to disclose internal memoranda, receipts, invoices, audits and correspondence from the Holocaust era, as well as an account of any property confiscated from Holocaust victims, and restitution paid.

“Due to this legislation, SNCF will for the first time ever be required to fully disclose its participation in the Holocaust,” said attorney Raphael Prober, who works pro bono for Holocaust survivors seeking reparations from the French rail company. “This is a landmark event and an incredible step in the right direction.”

The law, said O’Malley, lets “Holocaust survivors who are still with us... know that the atrocities inflicted on their families and their people will never be forgotten and will never be repeated.”

The legislation is expected to provide transparency, with bidders for rail contracts expected to make their records available online. But many lawmakers are calling for further action to pass proposed federal legislation, the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which would allow survivors to pursue claims in court against SNCF over its role in the Holocaust.

Guillaume Pepy, president of SNCF, expressed regret last year over his company’s role in Holocaust deportations. He spoke while visiting Florida, where the French rail company planned to bid on a contract to develop high-speed rail services.



But SNCF has also insisted it was forced by France’s German occupiers to help transport and deport 76,000 French Jews to Nazi death camps.

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