Maryland passed legislation Thursday that requires a French rail company, as a condition for receiving a rail contract from the state, to disclose its role in transporting 76,000 people loaded in 76 cattle cars to their death in Nazi camps.
The legislation says Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francaise, or SNCF, France’s national railroad, must list specific details online about its role in the transportation that sent many Jewish people to death in Auschwitz and other notorious death camps. The state is the first to enact a law that would bring any company seeking a governmental contract to task for suspected Holocaust ties.
"We hope this legislation can become a national model sooner rather than later so that Holocaust survivors who are still with us can know that the atrocities inflicted upon their families and their people will remain in our minds, will never be forgotten and will never be repeated," Gov. Martin O'Malley said at a bill-signing ceremony.
The company had formally apologized to Holocaust victims in January, just months after the uproar from survivors and lawmakers about the company winning contracts.
“In the name of the SNCF, I bow down before the victims, the survivors, the children of those deported, and before the suffering that still lives,” Guillaume Pepy, the company’s chairman, during a ceremony at a railway station in Bobigny, a Paris suburb, the New York Times reported. The company was reportedly offering the station to local authorities for a memorial to the 20,000 Jews shipped from there to Nazi camps.
There have been calls for payments to Holocaust victims, and federal legislation named the Holocaust Rail Justice Act may require companies involved in the transportation to pay reparations.
“This legislation allows Maryland taxpayers to see exactly where their money is going,” Raphael Prober, the pro-bono attorney representing Holocaust survivors, said. “This allows transparency for the victims."
Prober said SNCF was paid “per head and kilometer” by the Nazis, and clear disclosure would bring victims and family members closer to justice.
"It's about bringing justice to the families," he said.