US high court turns down WWII French rail case

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal against French railways firm SNCF over its role in deporting Jews during World War II, blocking descendants of deportees from suing in US courts.

A group of relatives of wartime refugees, the second in a matter of months, had asked the court to allow a suit seeking compensation from the state-owned Societe nationale des chemins de fer francais (SNCF).

“The court will not hear the case any further,” said Linda Silberman, a US attorney for SNCF, who said “we’re pleased.”

“We didn’t think it presented any important issue for the Supreme Court to decide (or) warranted a review before the Supreme Court,” she said.

In their appeal “the plaintiffs have not shown that they could bring this case in the US,” she argued, noting that “the railroad is an instrumentality of the French government in the US (and) all of these events took place in France.”

The Supreme Court, by refusing a review, let stand the appeals court ruling. But the attorney declined to say that this would necessarily mean the end of legal action against SNCF in the United States on this issue.

The plaintiffs’ attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

US lawmakers in March introduced legislation that aims to allow lawsuits against the SNCF over its role in hauling Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.

An estimated 76,000 French Jews were deported to concentration camps and the company noted that some 2,000 of its workers also were killed by Nazi occupiers.

The company last year formally expressed remorse and insisted it was forced by France’s World War II German occupiers to help deport Jews.

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