Obama administration warns states over Holocaust reparation talks with France

State Department urges New York, Maryland to pull legislation against France's state-owned railway which transported Jews to death camps.

A Holocaust survivor attends a memorial in France. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Holocaust survivor attends a memorial in France.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Obama administration is warning the state legislatures of Maryland and New York that legislation aimed at a French railway carrier over its Holocaust- era activities was jeopardizing its negotiations with the French government over reparations.
The State Department released a statement on Thursday confirming that it was negotiating with Paris over a reparations agreement for Holocaust victims, survivors, and their next of kin who were transported to the Nazi death camps by way of French railways.
“The United States and France have entered into discussions of compensation for victims of deportations by rail from France to Nazi labor and death camps as well as for victims’ families,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “It is our mutual aim to conclude these talks as quickly as possible.”
“Recent initiatives of certain state legislatures, such as New York and Maryland, have begun to pose a serious obstacle to achieving this goal. We strongly urge all concerned to avoid actions that undermine the ongoing compensation talks.”
Psaki was referring to a measure being discussed by the Maryland state legislature which would bar France’s state-owned railway, SNCF, from bidding on a new $2.2 billion light-rail project. Historians say SNCF trains transported tens of thousands of Jews to death camps during the Nazi occupation of France, though there is a dispute as to the company’s complicity.
“The current American-French dialogue, in our view, represents the best means of reaching an agreement that will meet the concerns expressed by lawmakers in these states,” Psaki said.