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Rail Bill Hearing Goes On Without Holocaust Survivor

A Maryland bill would prevent a French train company with ties to the Holocaust from operating the Purple Line.
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A Maryland bill would prevent a French train company with ties to the Holocaust from operating the Purple Line.

In Maryland, a hearing on a bill denying a French rail company from securing the contract to operate the Purple Line because of its ties to the Holocaust went on as scheduled in Annapolis this afternoon, even though a Holocaust survivor who was scheduled to testify at it died over the weekend.

Leo Bretholtz died Saturday just two days after his 93rd birthday. Long before he lived in Maryland, Bretholtz escaped a train headed for Auschwitz in 1942 that was operated by SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), the state-owned railway of France. SNCF is one of four companies seeking to operate the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and a bill in the General Assembly would prevent any company that has not paid reparations to Holocaust survivors in the U.S. from bidding on private-public partnerships in Maryland.

Rosette Goldstein flew up from Florida yesterday after hearing of Bretholtz's passing and testified at today's House Ways and Means Committee hearing in his place. "I didn't want this to be cancelled," Goldstein said. "This is Leo's testimony."

Goldstein's father was transported to Auschwitz aboard a SNCF train in 1943. He died two years later at a different concentration camp, just five days before the U.S. Army liberated it. "They were paid per head and per kilometer to take 76,000 French Jews and American airmen...and 11,000 children...to their deaths," Goldstein said. "In their death trains."

The bill's sponsor, Montgomery County Democrat Kirill Reznik, says SNCF has paid reparations to European Holocaust survivors, but not to those living in the U.S. He adds the company is negotiating with the State Department to do that, and hopes his bill might speed up those talks.

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