NEW YORK CITY – New York Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and City Councillors Mark Levine and Benjamin Kallos announced on Monday that they would introduce a resolution to the New York City Council to prohibit city businesses from contracting with any companies that profited from the Holocaust and have never paid reparations to survivors.
The resolution would call on the New York State government to do the same.
Of particular concern is the Société Nationale des Chemin de fer Français (SNCF), the French national railroad company that was responsible for the deportation of 76,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
SNCF recently won contracts in Virginia and Massachusetts, and is currently thought to be the leading bidder for a contract that would run a new purple line through Washington DC’s Metro System into suburban Maryland. Levine and Kallos hope to prevent the same from happening in New York.
“We generally respond to the Holocaust by looking to the past,” Levine said, “but today we also want to think about the future. There are 50,000 New Yorkers [Holocaust survivors] for whom we need to provide resources to live out their lives with dignity. And we must do everything in our power to get reparations for them. We believe it is unconscionable that anyone would award them a contract.”
“Corporations must pay restitution, or they will not receive a contract,” said Kallos. “We say we will never forget, and we will not forget by cutting off business for them.”
SNCF has paid reparations to survivors living in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the UK, but not to those living in the US, said Congresswoman Maloney. Maloney and Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Holocaust Rail Justice Act last year, a bill that would have made it illegal for any government contracts to be given to SNCF, but the bill failed in committee.
“SNCF has acknowledged its role in transporting victims, but has always refused to pay compensation for its actions,” Maloney said. “The survivors deserve their day in court. We believe that this will add to the pressure on France. After 69 years there’s no reason for France to drag its feet.”
The city resolution will go to a vote on Tuesday and Kallos, who is vice chair of the Jewish caucus of city council, said they expect to see it referred immediately to the state level and hope to see similar legislation pass in the state capital before the end of the session in June. Kallos said they would be meeting with council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Monday, and Levine said that all his meetings about the resolution had been “very positive.”
The New York resolution’s language is broader than Maloney’s original bill, and would encompass action toward any company that had not paid reparations to Holocaust survivors.