A picture of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ileana R.
Republican FL 27

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  • French Rail/holocaust Settlement

    by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to raise awareness about Holocaust survivors' continued quest for justice, an ever-elusive goal still nearly three-quarters of a century after living through the crimes of modern humanity's darkest period.

    Though it is said that the moral universe's arc bends toward justice, time is not a luxury we can afford any longer for elderly Holocaust survivors.

    {time} 1015 Of the approximately half a million Holocaust survivors, around half of them live at or near poverty. Can you imagine that? Holocaust survivors should be able to live out the remaining days in comfort and with the knowledge that their long-sought justice has finally been achieved.

    Recently, Mr. Speaker, an agreement was reached between the Government of France and the United States regarding victims of Holocaust-related deportations during the Nazi era. The French rail company, SNCF, knowingly and willfully transported tens of thousands of Holocaust victims to concentration camps and near certain death during the Second World War. They were paid to do this.

    For over 70 years, SNCF, the French rail company and the French Government eluded any and all responsibility for these actions. For years, I have been fighting for justice for all victims of the Holocaust.

    On this issue in particular, I have joined Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York as she attempted to shepherd the Holocaust Rail Justice Act through Congress over the past few sessions. I want to thank the gentlewoman from New York for her leadership and her unyielding effort to hold SNCF accountable for its heinous actions.

    While the agreement reached over SNCF's--remember, that is the French rail company--culpability in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews is not the optimal solution, it is imperative that we do hold these perpetrators accountable and that we win justice for as many Holocaust survivors and their heirs as possible.

    However, Mr. Speaker, it is important that Holocaust survivors and their families are made aware of this agreement and the claims process. Many do not know of this.

    For more information, questions, and to file a claim, the State Department has set up a Web site at www.state.gov/ deportationclaims.com. I know that is very difficult. Or you can call 202-776-8385, or send an email to deportationclaims@state.gov.

    That is a lot to take in.

    Or contact your congressional Representative, and we can help.

    Mr. Speaker, I urge everyone to spread the word to make sure that every Holocaust survivor eligible gets an opportunity to file a claim. I want to thank the continued efforts and the support of the many Holocaust survivors that I am blessed to have in my congressional district who have been at the forefront in the fight for justice for survivors and their heirs.

    My good friends, David Mermelstein, David Schaecter, Joe Sachs, Alex Gross, Herbie Karliner, Jack Rubin, and so many others--they have seen the unforgettable, and they have lived through the unthinkable. Yet, they continue steadfast in the fight for justice against those who have committed the unforgivable and the unthinkable.

    I, also, want to thank the others who have pursued justice for these individuals at every turn, like my good friend and long-time constituent, Sam Dubbin. Sam has been instrumental in highlighting fraud at the Claims Conference, that we know now, very clearly, occurred over decades and deprived Holocaust survivors of at least tens of millions of dollars, and the real numbers are likely even higher.

    Next year, Mr. Speaker, I plan to introduce my bill, once again, to allow survivors to have their day in court. That is all the bill does, to have their day in court, because we now know that the Claims Conference process has failed so many of the Holocaust survivors.

    Mr. Speaker, time is of the essence. We owe survivors and their heirs every opportunity to achieve justice. I urge my colleagues to continue this fight on behalf of the remaining Holocaust survivors and their heirs to get the word out to their constituents and their local community leaders.

    If you know someone who may be eligible to receive compensation under this incredibly horrific act done by the French rail company to transport victims to certain death, please direct them to the State Department Web site. The deadline is May 31 next year. Let's get the word out as soon and as far as possible.


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