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SNCF: Upfront and apologetic about our Holocaust role

December 3, 2010 |  3:44 pm

In its Nov. 20 editorial "Echoes of the Holocaust," The Times raised questions concerning the sincerity of the French national railway's apology for its World War II role in the Holocaust. The railway, known as SNCF, hopes to win a multibillion-dollar contract to help build California's high-speed rail system, but it has come under increasing pressure by state lawmakers to be fully upfront about its role in transporting 76,000 Jews to Nazi Germany, where they were sent on to death camps.

Below is a response by Denis Doute, chief executive of SNCF America.

The Times was correct in its editorial (Echoes of the Holocaust, 11-20-10) that we cannot change history, but we must acknowledge and learn from it.

This SNCF has done. We have opened our vast archives to public review since 1996. The SNCF of today looked at what SNCF of the past did by commissioning an extraordinary independent historical review and analysis of the company’s activities in World War, and made that public as well.

SNCF has built a long record of supporting Holocaust remembrance and education efforts, including collaborations with French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld.

Only through study and education efforts like these will the world learn the lessons of history and ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust will not happen again.

With questions being raised in America, SNCF is now making a record of its World War II history available in English, and we are engaged in outreach efforts with Jewish community leaders, Holocaust survivors and their families.

Our national government for decades has had multiple war reparations programs, including for those transported to Germany on SNCF trains by the Nazi occupiers. Thousands of people have been assisted through these programs.

We disagree with The Times’ characterization of these efforts as "double-talk or blame-shifting." These programs have had profound impact on the lives of thousands of Holocaust survivors and their families.

We must correct The Times' representation that these efforts began only after SNCF entered the California market. The history of our actions is clear, on record and dates back decades. 

Denis Doute
Palo Alto, Calif.


RELATED: Schwarzenegger vetoes bill that would have targeted French high-speed rail firm with Holocaust past

-- Paul Thornton

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