Cosponsor HR 1193, the Holocaust Rail Justice Act
It is with a renewed sense of urgency that we ask you to become a cosponsor of legislation that will grant Holocaust survivors their long-awaited and much deserved day in court.
Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the only pending action against SNCF. Now, more than ever, the Holocaust Rail Justice Act represents the only recourse for these survivors.
During World War II, more than 75,000 Jews and other “undesirables” were transported from France to Nazi death camps aboard trains operated by the Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (“SNCF”). Among those transported to death camps on SNCF trains were American airmen shot down over France. SNCF operated the trains as a commercial venture and were paid per head, per kilometer to deliver thousands to their ultimate deaths.
In the 66 years since the end of World War II, SNCF has never made restitution or reparations to its victims.
Hundreds of known survivors and family members of those who have perished live in the United States today—although the number of living survivors is rapidly growing smaller—and litigation seeking to hold SNCF accountable for its actions during World War II went on for over ten years. SNCF has unfortunately succeeded in cloaking itself in the veil of foreign sovereign immunity and thus evaded jurisdiction in United States courts.
At the very same time as SNCF argued in United States courts that it was entitled to foreign sovereign immunity, the company was advancing the opposite argument in French administrative court in an effort to have a case dismissed. It is unconscionable that SNCF has successfully evaded accountability by arguing in the US that it is an instrumentality of the French government and thus entitled to sovereign immunity while at the same time arguing in France it was performing a private function (and not a government function). SNCF has avoided all accountability and now the Holocaust Rail Justice Act is the only remaining opportunity for the survivors to pursue justice.
In addition, as SNCF has pursued high-speed rail contracts in the US the company has launched a massive PR campaign to spin the history of its role in the Holocaust and its interactions with survivors since. Just a few weeks ago a bipartisan group of the Florida congressional delegation, including both Senators and 11 House members, sent a letter to the Florida Commissioner of Education expressing concerns with SNCF’s attempt to donate money and become involved in Holocaust education in Florida. These lawmakers noted that “Instead of attempting to engage in a public relations campaign, SNCF would be wise to resolve the claims of the Holocaust survivors as a consequence of their actions.”
HR 1193 would simply preclude, in this one limited instance, the defense of foreign sovereign immunity from being raised. As the facts make clear, this is not the type of situation foreign sovereign immunity was intended to cover. This bipartisan bill now has over 30 cosponsors and the companion bipartisan Senate legislation has over 15 cosponsors . Now more than ever, it is imperative that Congress acts to pass this legislation to grant these victims their day in court.
Please join us in sponsoring HR 1193, a bill that would finally hold SNCF accountable for its wartime actions and provide survivors with their last opportunity for justice in their lifetimes.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY