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France to pay US 60 million dollars for Holocaust deportations

A railtruck at Auschwitz concentration camp B Ruelle

France is to pay 60 million dollars (49 million euros) to victims of the Holocaust transported by the national rail company SNCF during World War II and their descendants. A fund is to be established following a campaign in the US for compensation to foreigners transported to Nazi death camps.

Following a campaign to block the SNCF winning contracts in the US, an agreement was reached between Washington and Paris on Friday and will be signed on Monday.

The French government is to pay the money – most but not all of which will go to US citizens - to a fund administered by the American authorities.

Survivors will receive about 100,000 dollars, while their spouses or descendants will receive payouts in the tens of thousands.

The number of beneficiaries will be established after claims have been filed, France’s human rights ambassador Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay said.

The French authorities will foot the bill, she explained, because the SNCF, which transported 76,000 Jews to the death camps, was “an instrument of deportation” and not responsible for it.

French victims were granted compensation in 1946 but those who had emigrated or arrived in France after the outbreak of the war in 1939 received nothing.

Abraham Foxman of the US Jewish civil rights organisation the Anti-Defamation League, described the agreement as "some modest redress, an important recognition of their pain”.

The Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice, which has backed action against the SNCF, called the deal an admission by the SNCF and the French government that they were “accomplices in the atrocities of the Holocaust”, while asserting that some people are not covered by it.

The rail company is to pay an extra four million dollars (3.25 million euros) into its Holocaust education programme.

The agreement will mean that the SNCF can bid for public contracts, such as one in the state of Maryland that have been blocked by the campaign for compensation.

It cannot come into affect until the French parliament has amended a law passed in 1948.