Navigate to News section

Maryland Holocaust Reparation Bill Fails

Would have forced French rail company to pay up before getting U.S. contract

Lily Wilf
April 09, 2014

Maryland legislature failed to vote on a bill that would have prohibited French railway company Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, or SNCF, from entering into a United States contract until it paid restitution to Holocaust survivors for SNCF involvement in transporting Jews to Nazi concentration camps. According to the Washington Post, the bill never got past committee hearings and stalled indefinitely on Monday as the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session ended.

The story began when the French company Keolis, a SNCF subsidiary, put in a bid for Maryland’s $2.2 billion light-rail Purple Line Project. Maryland Senator Joan Carter Conway proposed that Maryland legislature block the company from winning the bid until the company compensated American Holocaust survivors.

If the bill had passed, it would have been the first state law to hold companies accountable for their actions during the Holocaust as a prerequisite for entering into a U.S. government-funded contract. It’s progress was struck a blow when Leo Bretholz, a Baltimore resident who escaped from a train heading to a Nazi death camp, died two days before he was set to testify on behalf of the proposed legislation.

Besides threatening $900 million in federal construction aid for the railroad project, the legislation’s approval might have jeopardized talks currently underway between the U.S. and France about extending the French government’s Holocaust compensation program to cover Americans.

Lily Wilf is an editorial intern at Tablet.