A French railroad company that helped transport at least 76,000 Jews to their deaths in Nazi Germany has been approved to fund a state Holocaust program. But the decision has outraged some Holocaust survivors, who blasted the state Department of Education for accepting what they see as tainted money.
SNCF America, a subsidiary of the French company, donated $80,000 to help the department’s Holocaust Education Task Force develop a curriculum focusing on France’s activities in the Holocaust. The state and SNCF are partnering with the Shoah Memorial of Paris, a Holocaust museum and documentation center.
The company has said the donation is part of its commitment to support Holocaust education efforts.
“There can never be enough done to right the wrongs of the Holocaust,” company spokesman Jerry Ray said. “We still live in a world of intolerance. It is not only right, but it is critical that we all should support institutions such as the Shoah Memorial and the Florida Task Force in their work.”
But critics say SNCF hasn’t taken full responsibility for its own actions during the Holocaust, and said the company sees this as a way to improve its image as it seeks U.S. rail contracts.
“We don’t need SNCF to whitewash its image here,” said Rita G. Hofrichter, 84, of Sunny Isles Beach, who lost her parents and other relatives in the Holocaust. “It’s really shameful that they think they can buy us with their blood money.”
The money will allow the task force to offer grants and develop a France-centered, Holocaust curriculum and website, while most Holocaust education focuses on Eastern Europe, said Linda Medvin. She is a former Broward schools Holocaust studies coordinator who is chairwoman of the Holocaust Education Task Force.
SNCF will not be involved in developing the curriculum, Ray and Medvin said.