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Holocaust Restitution: SNCF Reparations

(November 2015)

During the Holocaust, French state rail company SNCF transported approximately 76,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps around Europe. Families of the victims and survivors have called on the company to pay reparations, however the current executives insist that the company had no control over rail operations during the Nazi occupation of France.

After years of seeking reparations from the railway, the United States negotiated a deal with the French government in 2014 to create a $60 million fund to compensate the victims and families of those deported to Nazi death camps on French trains. This money is available to survivors of the deportations, as well as spouses or family members of deportees who died during or after the war. Survivors are expected to be paid approximately $100,000 once the government determines the eligibility of the applicants.

The French government has paid out more than $6 billion in compensation to French citizens over the years, but the money in this fund is reserved for U.S. citizens and Israelis. The U.S. State Department estimated that several hundred Holocaust survivors in the United States are eligible for this compensation, as well as thousands of families, spouses, and heirs.

Individuals had until May 31, 2016 to apply for these reparations. In total, approximately 700 people applied for compensation under this agreement.

The U.S. State Department announced in September 2016 that they had paid or approved payment for 90 reparation claims, to the tune of $11 million. These payments were the first French compensation payments ever made to Holocaust survivors who settled in the United States, Israel, Canada, and other countries who do not have formal reparation agreements with France. Previous French reparation payments only covered French citizens and individuals residing in four countries that had bilateral agreements with France. Additionally, this is the first compensation program to include heirs of people who died before receiving their payments.

A second round of applications was opened on September 14, 2016, with a cut-off date of January 20, 2017. State Department officials clarified that all money allocated in the fund will be paid out, and all excess funds will be redistributed among the applicants.

Source: Charlton, Angela. “French state rail company to compensate Holocaust deportees,” Times of Israel (November 3, 2015);
Shaver, Katherine. “U.S. begins paying out reparations from France to Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” Washington Post, (September 15, 2016)