The Washington Post and NPR are both reporting this morning on controversy around French company SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français), parent company of Keolis, which recently won its bid to operate the MBTA's commuter rail system.
Keolis is now part of a consortium bidding to design, build, and operate a new light-rail line in Maryland.
During World War II SNCF operated trains used to carry people to Nazi death camps. An Austrian-born Holocaust survivor now living in Baltimore, Leo Bretholz, has launched a petition at Change.org for SNCF to pay reparations to American Holocaust survivors who were carried on the company's trains. The Post reports that SNCF has begun talks with the US State Department on reparations:
Stuart Eizenstat, a Washington lawyer serving as special adviser to Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Holocaust issues, confirmed Thursday that he and several State Department officials met with French officials Feb. 6 in Paris, an extension of informal discussions over the past year.
“To the great credit of the French, they came to us and said they’d recognized there were ‘holes in the blanket’ of their [Holocaust reparations] program that didn’t cover Americans” who were deported on French trains during World War II, he said.
A Baltimore state senator, recently introduced a bill to block Keolis from participating in the light-rail project unless SNCF pays reparations.