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Old 07-23-2010, 07:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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SNCF & Death Camps

I've ridden on the French government-run train system. It's a pretty comfortable ride, depending on where you're going. Now they're gaining traction in the US, with the Virginia Railway Express, and deals in the works for Maryland and California But there's a sour point in their history that is only now gaining media attention.

Will you be riding on trains run by the SNCF?
Are the claims against the SNCF justified?
Would you consider changing your commute route to avoid the company?

From NPR Holocaust Survivors Blast French Rail's U.S. Pursuits : NPR

Quote:
Holocaust Survivors Blast French Rail's U.S. Pursuits
by Jacob Fenston
July 23, 2010
Holocaust survivors have long taken aim at the French national railway, which transported some 75,000 Jews to death camps during World War II. And now they're asking a court to stop the company from running trains in the U.S.

Sitting in his living room in Baltimore, Leo Brethol, 89, flips through a heavy, well-warn book that contains the names of Jews deported from Nazi-occupied France to almost certain death in camps in Eastern Europe.

Stopping on one page, Bretholz reads aloud, "Convoy No. 42, on the 6th of November 1942." It was the train he rode on.

He points to a spot and continues, "Leo Bretholz, born on the 6th of March '21 in Vienna. See it? Right here. Black and white."

The train, carrying 1,000 people packed in freight cars, was on its way to Auschwitz.

Bretholz was one of a handful of people in the convoy to survive the Holocaust. He and a friend managed to pry open the window bars and leap from the moving car.

"At that time, the trains were SNCF, yes," Bretholz says. "This was the Societe Nacional de Chemins de Fer Francais."

History And Accountability

Bretholz and about 300 other survivors are suing SNCF for damages in a New York court, arguing that the railway was complicit in the murders carried out by the Nazis during World War II. They also argue the company should not be allowed to run U.S. train lines like a commuter rail its subsidiary took over this month in Northern Virginia.

The subsidiary, Keolis America, out-bid Amtrak for the contract to operate the Virginia Railway Express.

Keolis president Steve Townsend says he thinks it's a stretch to link his company to the Holocaust.

"The issue for me is completely new," Townsend says. "I'm not a historian, nor [am I really] an expert at all in SNCF's history."

Michael Marrus, a historian and University of Toronto professor, has written extensively about the Holocaust in France. He agrees with Townsend that SNCF and its subsidiary shouldn't be punished today for what happened 70 years ago.

"When the deportees reached Paris, they were taken on a bus, so what about the bus companies?" Marrus asks. "What about the companies that supplied the petrol for the buses?"

In occupied France, the entire society became part of the Nazi war machine, Marrus says.

Bretholz says the French government never fessed up to this involvement.

"This is what parents ask of their kids when they do something wrong," he says. "They say you have to admit that you did wrong. You teach that to kids."

But, Marrus says, the French government and SNCF have come to terms with their past. In the 1990s, the government began paying reparations, and the train company opened its books.

Bretholz says he did receive a small payment for time in a forced labor camp, but he never received an apology.

A Commuter's View

In Washington, D.C., commuters waiting for the Virginia Railway Express are mostly unaware of the train's link to the Holocaust. But some, like Danny Hambrick, say they find the connection troubling.

"As to whether I'll keep riding now that you told me that," he says, "now I don't want to. But I think until I figure out a better alternative, I probably have to keep going."

The SNCF subsidiary is also bidding on two commuter lines in Maryland. There's also a chance it could win one of the biggest rail contracts in U.S. history — California's $42 billion high-speed train, which will link San Francisco and San Diego.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since the French government has already made ammends to holocaust survivors, I don't see a need for government-run companies to take any action. But I can see how some might disagree.

I'm pretty excited about the idea of high-speed rail becoming more prevalent around the United States, and it seems like the French are in a better position to make it happen than Amtrak. I'm just not sure that it'll be cheap enough to catch on.
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Last edited by genuinegirly; 07-23-2010 at 07:40 AM..
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:00 AM   #2 (permalink)
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This reminds me of how some view the Bertelsmann media group. Back in the days of WWII, the Bertelsmann company (originally a publishing house and print shop) was the single biggest producer of Nazi propaganda. Now, in terms of physical harm, the transportation of Jews is a terrible thing. However, we mustn't underestimate the damage of effective and pervasive propaganda.

I've also heard that Bertlesmann has been criticized for failing to make reparations for the thousands of manhours logged by Jews during the war for which they weren't compensated.

You may be more familiar with one of Bertlesmann's companies, Random House. It's the world's largest trade book publisher. They own a crapton of imprints, including but not limited to:
  • Knopf
  • Doubleday
  • Everyman's
  • Del Rey
  • Vintage
  • Ballantine
  • Bantam
  • The Modern Library
  • Golden Books

The list is huge.

Did you read The Da Vinci Code? Bantam.

Chances are, if you've read a dozen books in your life, you've read at least one book published by the Random House group.

That said, should we refuse to purchase these books?

BBC NEWS | Business | Bertelsmann admits Nazi past

I'm not sure if Bertelsmann has made any reparations for the slave labour, but at least they apologized. How much should be done before we agree to do business with them?

On the topic of the rail company, it all depends on how it has progressed from its past and into the present. Do they still carry the spectre of the past with them? Or has it been long enough to suggest that there is no direct attachment? They have paid reparations. When will it be enough?
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:26 AM   #3 (permalink)
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And the list really does go on and on when you seriously consider how many companies and countries had a hand in the Holocaust for the sake of making a buck. You'd be hard pressed to do your business or make a living without in some way putting money into their pockets. And so it's pretty futile to refuse to do business with them and in this case in particular, disallow them from doing business simply because of their blood stained past.

However, as far as I'm concerned, it'll absolutely never be enough. I simply prefer not to live consumed with such matters when the inescapable nature of their past will eventually catch up with them.
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Old 07-24-2010, 08:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Just because a company did something bad in the past doesn't make the company bad if the current management are different. I doubt that there are any neo-Nazi board members in SNCF. We're allies with Germany now, if we can trust a country with the same name and different management, why can't we do the same for private businesses?
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Old 07-24-2010, 08:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSD View Post
Just because a company did something bad in the past doesn't make the company bad if the current management are different. I doubt that there are any neo-Nazi board members in SNCF. We're allies with Germany now, if we can trust a country with the same name and different management, why can't we do the same for private businesses?
Excellent point. While I find the company's actions in the past brutal and heartless, I'm realistic enough to know that there's nothing I can do about it now. The past is the past, let's focus on fixing the present and planning the future.
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Old 07-24-2010, 09:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSD View Post
Just because a company did something bad in the past doesn't make the company bad if the current management are different. I doubt that there are any neo-Nazi board members in SNCF. We're allies with Germany now, if we can trust a country with the same name and different management, why can't we do the same for private businesses?
I agree, the past is over with, that was over 50 years ago. Long time back.

If we can make the train/public transportation system half of what Europe has, I'll be happy. The reason is, I don't think it will ever happen.
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Old 07-25-2010, 04:37 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSD View Post
Just because a company did something bad in the past doesn't make the company bad if the current management are different. I doubt that there are any neo-Nazi board members in SNCF. We're allies with Germany now, if we can trust a country with the same name and different management, why can't we do the same for private businesses?
I also agree. Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz provided transportation, too. I do not excuse the actions of the past, but I doubt any hardline Nazis have anything to do with the company now.
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Old 07-25-2010, 05:04 AM   #8 (permalink)
 
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it's good to remember what collaboration is. it's good to remember that there's no contradiction between bidness and collaboration with an authoritarian regime. no problem at all from a bidness viewpoint. it's good to remember the power of compartmentalization.

in this particular situation, there's a bunch of ironies that i won't bore you with concerning the politics of french railway workers: suffice it to say that there were from the earliest days of french trade union organization amongst the most militant in france. so the sncf was never one thing. and in part because of the presence of the left inside the sncf, the role of the system in collaborating with the nazis has long been known.

at the same time, to really make a judgment about this you'd have to know specifically about the french situation and what the prospects were. sncf as a state corporation had little latitude. it was not in the same situation as, say, renault, which was privately held and enthusiastic in the fufillment of german war material orders.

profits uber alles dontcha know.
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Old 07-29-2010, 01:07 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Uber alles. I remember thinking Granny Clampett was laughable, so probably there're a few more decades of kvetching to look forward to, given that claiming victimhood remains profitable.
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Old 07-29-2010, 03:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Damn Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. I'm never buying another... *throws computer out window*

Enough of the white guilt.
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Old 07-29-2010, 03:59 PM   #11 (permalink)
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*wet blanket*

that was then, this is now...
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Old 07-29-2010, 05:39 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Damn Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. I'm never buying another... *throws computer out window*

Enough of the white guilt.
Agree, the list would be never ending

Mitsubishi built Zeros in WWII

The US Postal Service delivered letter bombs sent by the Unibomber

The list could go forever.
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Old 07-29-2010, 06:17 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Don't you mean gentile guilt?
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:00 PM   #14 (permalink)
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No, I mean cracker honky guilt.

Seriously... white people have pretty much done everything horrible there is to do and have done such in recent enough history that we can't off-the-top-of-our-melons think of similar examples done by other races. At least us laymen, anyway. Nobody remembers Pol Pot (Who? I know, right?!), but by God we'll talk about white-on-black slavery in the new world and how that shitty painter with the sawed-off mustache tried to kill off the Jewish people.

Even history is racist. Or is really the case that atrocities committed by white people are more famous than atrocities committed by other races?

But I digress.

Fuck whitey.
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:20 AM   #15 (permalink)
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You were the one who brought up guilt.
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Old 07-30-2010, 07:47 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I know. I feel sooo bad inside.

*falls to knees, cradles torso with arms like that annoying Creed album cover*

...

Time heals all wounds*.

* Except for white guilt.

...

How the hell are Nazis relevant to business conversation in 2010?

This is like something off a soap opera. The Young and the Racist.
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Old 07-30-2010, 08:28 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I feel so good inside. What time's the train?
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Old 07-30-2010, 08:40 AM   #18 (permalink)
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...whenever they're done offloading the bodies!

*rimshot*
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:11 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I'm not boycotting the French, Germans or Japanese for anything that happened in WWII.

Don't we have enough problems in the world without trying to relive/punish events 70 yrs old?
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:15 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tully Mars View Post
I'm not boycotting the French, Germans or Japanese for anything that happened in WWII.

Don't we have enough problems in the world without trying to relive/punish events 70 yrs old?
/thread
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:05 PM   #21 (permalink)
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We don't have to go all the way to Europe if you want to start looking for businesses that share responsibility for the Holocaust. In the political climate of the pre-war years, many American businesses saw Nazi Germany as the West's first line of defense against the threat of communism.

And let's not forget the Bush family fortune was established by Prescott Bush, who helped bankroll the Nazi war machine even after the U.S. entered WW II.
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