France to pay $65 million to Holocaust victims deported by state rail firm

The agreement, which has been at least two years in the making, should now open the way to allow French rail firm SNCF to bid on major contracts in the US state of Maryland.

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Several thousands of people could be eligible for compensation, including nationals from Israel and Canada as well as Americans who were deported from France to the death camps during World War II.

During the occupation of France by Germany, the Nazi regime deported almost 76,000 Jews to concentration camps in French freight cars between 1942 and 1944.

 

Only around 3000 survived.

Maryland lawmakers had demanded that SNCF compensate the victims before being allowed to join a bidding process on a public-private light rail project worth nearly $US3 billion for local projects and introduced bills to that effect.

But the French rail firm had protested that it had no choice as it was simply a “cog in the Nazi extermination machine” and that any eventual compensation should be paid by the French government.

The deal is due to be signed on Monday by US special adviser on Holocaust issues Stuart Eizenstat and French ambassador on human rights Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay.

Eizenstat said that under the terms of the “historic” deal Paris would pay a $US60 million lump sum to Washington to compensate the survivors, or their spouses and heirs.

He had no exact figure of how many could be eligible, but said it was expected to run into “several thousand”.

Survivors could receive up to $A120,000 ($US100,000) each, while spouses or heirs could several tens of thousands of dollars, he said.