Queens Gazette Maloney, Levine & Kallos Fight For Holocaust Reparations For Survivors by Staff
Congressmember Carolyn B. Maloney joined Councilmembers Mark Levine and Benjamin Kallos to highlight their efforts to secure reparations from SNCF, the French rail company that transported 76,000 Jews and thousands of others to concentration camps during World War II, and to hold accountable any company that profited from the Holocaust.
Council Members Levine and Kallos will introduce a city council resolution that would call on the state legislature to pass legislation barring contracting with companies that profited from the Holocaust, but have never compensated victims. Maloney is working to pass the Holocaust Rail Justice Act in Congress, to give survivors their day in court by ending SNCF's ability to shield itself from litigation using the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
“SNCF has acknowledged its role in transporting victims, but has always refused to pay compensation for its actions, citing sovereign immunity,” Maloney said. “The government of France has paid compensation to survivors who returned to France or who live in 4 other countries with which France reached agreements: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland and the United Kingdom. But survivors who live in the United States have been denied their day in court and have never received a dime in compensation from SNCF or the French government. I will continue my work in Congress to make sure companies like SNCF pay reparations to Holocaust survivors, and will adamantly oppose any public contracts with companies like this. I commend Council Members Levine and Kallos for their resolution in support of barring companies like SNCF from receiving state money.”
“Our response to the Holocaust must not only be about remembering and mourning, but also about supporting the survivors still among us and seeking justice for their perpetrators. Preemptive action now by New York State would send a clear message that companies implicated in the horrors of the holocaust must pay restitution to their victims--or be disqualified from doing business with our State,” said Council Member Mark Levine.
“We are all survivors and must never forget. My family is among millions of others to lose our loved ones in the Holocaust. For those corporations that profited from those deaths but failed to make the families of victims whole, I say, 'we will never forget.' I call on my colleagues in government to tell these corporations that 'we will never forget,' and to stop doing business with the corporations until they finally remember!” said Council Member Ben Kallos.
The resolution from Council Members Levine and Kallos calls on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would bar companies and their affiliates who profited from the Holocaust, but have not yet paid restitution, to receive government contracts.
Last year Maloney introduced the Holocaust Rail Justice Act with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to provide Holocaust survivors their day in court against SNCF. SNCF claims immunity from legal action due to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, yet the FSIA was passed 30 years after the action causing the harm for which the plaintiffs seek damages. The bill allows the plaintiffs to sue regardless of the strictures of the FSIA.
Earlier this year, Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen wrote to the Maryland Department of Transportation in opposition to a bid for the Purple Line rail project from Keolis North America, an SNCF subsidiary. The State Department is presently negotiating with the French government on the question of reparations.
During World War II, SNCF was paid per head, per kilometer to provide the trains, cars, and manpower necessary to deport approximately 76,000 Jews and thousands of other “undesirables” from France to Nazi death camps. Since the war, the company has refused to take responsibility for its actions or to provide any measure of justice or reparations to the surviving victims and families of those who perished.
Photo Caption: Council Member Benjamin Kallos, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Council Member Mark Levine discuss their efforts to hold accountable companies that profited from the Holocaust