Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5766 - June 14, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











France and France Railroad Ordered to Compensate Holocaust Victims for Deportation

By Arnon Yaffeh, Paris

Only after 61 years had passed was France's state-owned railroad company SNCF found guilt of deporting Jews in cattle cars, pressed in behind locked doors. Last week a Toulouse court circumvented all of the legal obstacles heaped on the case by the French government (e.g. statute of limitations and claims it was forced to cooperate with the occupying forces), ordering the State and the railroad company to compensate the Lipietz family. The company said it would appeal the decision. The French government, at the time under the Vichy Regime which collaborated with the Nazis, was fined for failing to save Jews.

Jewish figures and the CRIF are not satisfied with the conviction either. Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, whose son represented the company in the case, said, "We would have preferred that the railway workers had stopped them and that the managers had not obeyed the orders of the police and the Nazis. But not everyone is a hero. The Nazi government appropriated the company. Should we try all of the French whose property the Nazis used to deport the Jews?"

CRIF Chairman Roger Cukierman said that today the railroad company is working to atone for the deportations by funding Holocaust education. During the war the company took an active role in deporting Jews, saving on costs by using cattle cars. Company directors and employees treated the passengers like cattle, not providing them with water or food during the three-day journey to Poland. Historians have determined without the railway system Hitler ym"sh could not have carried out his plan.

The claim was filed five years ago by Alain Lipietz, a left- wing economist and a parliamentarian representing the Green Party. His father and family hid under a false identity in Toulouse in Southern France. In May 1944 they were informed on, arrested and transported in a cattle car to the Drancy Transit Camp near Paris en route to the death camps in Poland. In August 1944 they were released when Paris was liberated from Nazi occupation.

The father passed away a few years ago, but his family carried on the trial. During this period 300 relatives of Holocaust survivors in the US unsuccessfully tried to sue the SNCF after Kurt Shechter collected incriminating documents against the company which transported his parents from Drancy to Auschwitz. But Lipietz succeeded, even though his parents were transported only as far as Drancy and survived.

Historian Raul Hilberg said the railway inspectors and engineers went about their work as usual, without a word of protest. Seventy-seven trains packed with Jews transported victims from Drancy to Auschwitz and 76,000 French Jews deported on SNCF trains perished at the concentration camps.

Four hundred and sixty-seven railway workers received National Badges of Shame for collaborating with the Nazis.


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