A bill intended to put pressure on a French railroad and its U.S. subsidiary to cooperate with Holocaust survivors in efforts to account for the deportation of about 70,000 Jews and others from France to German death camps during World War II has passed both houses of the General Assembly.
Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, the House sponsor of the legislation, said the House bill was heavily amended to reflect the results of negotiations between advocates for the deportees and representatives of the French government-owned railroad SNCF and its Rockville-based affiliate Keolis America.
Rosenberg said the Senate bill passed a version close to the original form of the bill, which SNCF and Keolis had said would preclude it from competing to a contract to operate the MARC Brunswick and Camden lines when CSX Transportation relinquishes that role. But the Baltimore Democrat said he expected the Senate to agree to the amendments worked out in the House. He said those changes had been agreed to by the railroad’s lobbyist in Annapolis.
The original bill would have made it a condition on bidding on the MARC contract that any railroad involved in World War II deportations would have to make extensive disclosures of its records of its wartime activities. At a hearing marked by the emotional testimony of Holocaust survivors and their heirs, Keolis said the measure’s terms were so onerous it would have kept it from bidding on the MARC contract.
Keolis is one of a relative handful of companies with experience in operating railroads under contract with government agencies.
Rosenberg said that under the compromise, SNCF has agreed to speed the digitization of its company archives, which contain details of the railroad’s cooperation with German authorities after the French surrender to the Nazis in 1940.