auschwitz train tracks 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
NEW YORK – A new website, holocaustrailvictims.org, is the latest line of attack
in a longstanding quest of a group of Holocaust survivors to get reparations
from the French national railway company that transported people to
concentration and death camps during World War II.
RELATED: Germany to give $80 million Auschwitz memorial fund
SNCF transported over
75,000 people to such camps.
For more than 10 years, survivors living in
the US have tried to force SNCF to pay reparations for its actions.
has acknowledged its role in the Holocaust and has posted information relating
to its WWII history on its own website, issuing its first formal apology for its
role in the Holocaust in January, but has made no effort to pay
The new website is constructed by an Ad Hoc Coalition,
consisting of survivors, family members, historians, and volunteers, as well as
the survivors’ attorneys at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld,
which has represented over 600 survivors for five years in courts, state and
The site, which went online Monday, aims to inform
the public of survivors’ claims against the railway company and to garner
support for its stance that SNCF’s measures thus far are
“SNCF’s recent decision to issue its first ‘apology’ for
its role in the Holocaust was a calculated gesture to ensure the company’s
ability to compete for billions of American taxpayer dollars,” the website
reads. “This ‘apology’ has been recognized by legislators, survivors, Holocaust
experts, editorial boards and the press in the United States and France as such.
SNCF’s recent actions are an insult to its victims and to the memory of the
If SNCF’s regret is sincere, it must reach out to victims and
their families and provide reparations.
“Until SNCF provides full
disclosure and reparations to its victims and their families, we will continue
to seek justice for SNCF’s victims,” the website states.
however, SNCF has not been found liable for reparations in US courts due to the
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which sets limits on whether a foreign state
can be sued in a US court. As SNCF, a French national entity, has recently begun
to bid for highspeed rail contracts in American states including California,
Maryland and Florida, survivors have tried to pursue redress through legislative
Recent developments include a bill introduced last week
by Maryland state lawmakers, which would require companies bidding on mass
transit rail contracts to disclose whether or not they were involved in
transporting victims to German concentration camps.
website itself has met with resistance from SNCF, which sent a cease-anddesist
letter from its Paris office ordering the survivors’ lawyers to turn over
registered domain names because they contained “SNCF,” said Raphael Prober, the
Akin Gump attorney heading the firm’s legal efforts.
Prober told The
Washington Post that the letter showed “a total disconnect between what SNCF is
doing and saying publicly and what they’re doing privately.”
counsel, Peter Kelly, told The Washington Post that the railway company’s letter
had been sent in error and that the company welcomed Akin Gump’s efforts to
inform the public.
Federal legislation that would give US courts
jurisdiction to hear civil claims against SNCF over its role in the Holocaust
will be reintroduced soon, according to New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney,
whose first attempt to pass such a law never reached a vote.
legislation would simply preclude SNCF from raising the defense of foreign
sovereign immunity and allow the survivors’ suit... to go forward,” Prober said.
“This is not what the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act was intended to cover.”