Europe

France agrees Holocaust SNCF rail payout with US

File photo: Foreign Jews, mainly Polish Jews, getting off the train in Pithiviers, central France, May 1941. Thousands of Jews were imprisoned in the transit camp of Pithiviers et Beaune-la-Rolande during World War Two Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tens of thousands of Jews were moved by SNCF to Nazi camps, including Pithiviers, during World War Two

France and the US have agreed a compensation package for Holocaust victims deported by a French rail company during World War Two.

The two sides announced a $60m (£40m) compensation fund, paid for by the French government, on Friday.

Reparations will be paid to those transported by state rail company SNCF to Nazi concentration camps.

US lawmakers have previously attempted to bar SNCF from rail contracts because of its actions in WW2.

The rail company moved 76,000 Jews to Nazi camps during the Holocaust. Only about 3,000 survived.

However, the company, and some historians, have argued that SNCF was forced by the occupying German army to assist in the deportations.

In 2010, the SNCF chief executive expressed "profound sorrow and regret" for the consequences of the company's actions.

Image copyright AP
Image caption An SNCF wagon forms part of the memorial at the site of the Drancy concentration camp, north of Paris

Under the deal, Holocaust survivors as well as their spouses or descendants will receive compensation.

US-French deal

  • France to pay a $60m lump sum to the US, who will pay out to eligible claimants
  • Several thousand US citizens and other nationals are expected receive payments
  • Non-French survivors (with the exception of Belgians, Poles, Britons and former Czechoslovaks) will each receive more than $100,000
  • Spouses of non-French survivors (with the exception of Belgians, Poles, Britons and former Czechoslovaks) will each be paid tens of thousands of dollars
  • Estates "standing in the shoes" of non-French survivors or spouses (with the exception of Belgians, Poles, Britons and former Czechoslovaks) who died after World War Two - payments will depend on the year when the survivor or spouse died

Officials say thousands could be eligible, including citizens of Israel, Canada and the US.

According to US negotiator Stuart Eizenstat, survivors could receive more than $100,000 each, while spouses or heirs could get tens of thousands of dollars.

The agreement still needs to be voted on by the French parliament.

SNCF is currently bidding on US rail contracts, including in the state of Maryland, where lawmakers have pushed for reparations for survivors.

As part of the deal, the US government will try to end lawsuits and other claims against SNCF that have been made in Maryland, New York, Florida and California.

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