Rail Companies and WWII

If California Democrat Bob Blumenfeld gets his bill passed by California legislators, railroad companies in Germany, Japan, Spain and Italy may be forced to admit their complicity in WWII activities related to the transportation of prisoners of war and Jews to concentration/and or labor camps.  The full story from The Telegraph by Julian Ryall and Nick Allen, August 15, 2010″

A Democratic politician in the US state is pushing to make it a requirement that any involvement in taking people to work, concentration, prisoner of war, or extermination camps between January 1942 and December 1944 must be disclosed.

The proposal is specifically aimed at SNCF, the French national railway operator, which is expected to apply for a contract to run the new $45 billion (£30 billion) high speed link between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But the measure will also affect any rail firms from Germany, Japan, Spain, and Italy that were involved in transporting prisoners during the Second World War.

Executives at Japanese companies are said to be particularly concerned that they may face a public backlash if forced to reveal details of their treatment of American prisoners of war.

The companies will have to provide records of their operations and details of whether they paid restitution to victims.

SNCF transported around 75,000 Jews to Nazi camps but has always argued it was acting under the orders of the French authorities at the time, and had no autonomy under an occupation government.

The new Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act, which was approved 8-0 by members of the housing and transportation committee in June and is expected to pass the California legislature, is an attempt to force further details from the French.

An initial proposal that companies with Holocaust links should be excluded from the California project altogether has been dropped.

Around 30 Holocaust survivors live in the US state, most of them at least 90 years old.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, a Democrat who introduced the bill, said: “There could be a train made by the very same company that took them to the camps less than a few miles from their house. If that company hasn’t made amends, that to me is unconscionable.

“SNCF provided the trains, personnel and logistics that sent thousands of Jews, American soldiers and others to concentration camps. SNCF was paid by the Nazis for the deportations per head, per kilometre.” #

Bernard Caron, an 83-year-old concentration camp survivor who lost his family at Auschwitz, told the California Senate transport committee: “They shipped us under the filthiest conditions with only one pot of water per rail car. For the last 65 years SNCF has never denied it, but won’t accept responsibility for it.”

Denis Doute, head of SNCF in America, told the committee the firm co-operated with German authorities under the threat of death to employees and their families. SNCF has said it intends to “fully comply” with the bill.

It is expected to release a 1,200-page report commissioned from an independent historian in the 1990s, which will show its assets were completely under the control of the Germans.

In 2007, an appeals court in France overturned a ruling that the rail firm should compensate the family of deportees.

Companies should begin bidding for the rail contract next year and construction is expected to begin in 2012.

Survivors of Imperial Japan’s brutal labour camps have applauded the bill.

Lester Tenney, a survivor of the Bataan Death March after the fall of the Philippines in 1942, told The Daily Telegraph: “We do not want our money to be given to Japanese companies who used American POWs and have refused to apologise for the past 65 years.” Mr Tenney said US soldiers laboured for some of Japan’s most successful corporations for no wages, little food and negligible medical care, while enduring daily beatings.

The Japanese are expected to argue that they are different companies today.

Japan’s transport minister, Seiji Maehara, was in San Francisco in June to promote bullet train technology and has invited Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Tokyo in September.


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