France fined for WW2 deportation 'crimes'

June 7, 2006 at 7:56 AM
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TOULOUSE, France, June 7 (UPI) -- The French government and state railway were Wednesday ordered to pay compensation for their complicity in the deportation of Jews during World War Two.

A court in Toulouse judged the French state and the rail company SNCF had been complicit in crimes against humanity, by transporting Jews to transit camps in France from where they were taken to concentration camps in Germany.

The case was brought by Alan Lipietz, a member of the European Parliament, and his sister Helene, whose relatives were taken by train to a camp at Drancy near Paris during the Nazi occupation of France.

In total, more than 75,000 French Jews were transported from the camp to death camps in Germany.

The government and SNCF were ordered to pay compensation of $80,000 to the family.

A lawyer for the rail firm said it planned to appeal the ruling. Yves Baudelot told reporters that the company could not be held responsible because it had been forced to cooperate with German occupying forces during the war, an argument that has been accepted in previous cases.

But Lipietz described the judgment as "historic."

"It is the first time in history that the state and the SNCF as such have been condemned. The court recognised that these were not the actions of individuals or of some collaborator or another but the responsibility of the state," he said.

Lipietz said the court had recognized that the wartime government and its railways had done more than had been asked of them by the occupiers.

Records show that the SNCF invoiced the French state for the transfers and continued to demand payment even after the liberation of France.

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