PARIS (AP) — Thousands of Holocaust survivors and family members in the United States and elsewhere will be entitled to compensation from a $60 million French-U.S. fund announced Friday, reparations to those deported by France's state rail company SNCF during the Nazi occupation.
As part of the deal, the U.S. government will work to end lawsuits and other compensation claims in U.S. courts against SNCF, which is bidding for lucrative high-speed rail and other contracts in U.S. markets. State legislators in Maryland, New York, Florida and California have tried to punish SNCF for its Holocaust-era actions.
"This is another measure of justice for the harms of one of history's darkest eras," said the U.S. Special Adviser on Holocaust Issues, Stuart Eizenstat, who spent three years working with French officials on the agreement.
SNCF transported about 76,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps, though experts disagree on its degree of guilt. SNCF has expressed regret for what happened, but argues it had no effective control over operations during the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1944.
The compensation fund will be financed by the French government and managed by the United States. The accord will be signed Monday in Washington, but it still must get approval from the French Parliament, which could take months.
France's government has already paid more than $6 billion in reparations, but only to French citizens and certain deportees. The new accord is to help compensate Americans, Israelis and some others who were not eligible for other French reparations programs.
Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay, a French ambassador for human rights who worked closely with Eizenstat on the accord, said "hundreds" of people in the U.S. are eligible under the new fund as direct survivors or spouses, and several thousand could be eligible as heirs.
The money should break down to about $100,000 each for survivors and tens of thousands of dollars for spouses, said Eizenstat.
Only in 1995 did France acknowledge a direct role in the Holocaust, when then-President Jacques Chirac said the state bore responsibility. Subsequent compensation programs paid out compensation worth hundreds of millions of dollars.