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Scheduled to death (2008)
 Europe´s Railroads and the Holocaust

Authors: Wolfgang Schoen und Frank Gutermuth

Scheduled to death (2008)

On January 20th 1942 at the so called "Wannsee-Konferenz" the coordinaton of the "Endlösung der Judenfrage in Europa" had been set off: Millions of people should be transported from Germany and the German sphere of control into the extermination camps to Poland and should be murdered there. Adolf Eichmann, head of the Jews department in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt in Berlin, coordinates the deportations from all parts of Europe in close collaboration with the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German state railway).

In June 2006 the Administrative Court in Toulouse convicted the FrenchState and the state railway company SNCF due to the deportation of the Jews during the Second World War. The court confirmed a "joint responsibility" of the SNCF and the FrenchRepublic for the deportations. The court says, it seems the railway company had never "protested against the transports" and also had not tried to sabotage these. Also the court says it seems that SCNF had not been under compulsion of the ceasefire of 1940 as it claims. Rather the administrative court of Toulouse was of the opinion that it seems SNCF had freedom of action but did not use it.

The Toulouse court stated, that the SNCF instead of this seems to invoice tickets for the third class and "demands payment even after the liberation". So it seems clear: The French state railway was involved in the deportation of Jews in the extermination camps. The French post-war myth, which glorifies the SNCF as stronghold of the resistance against the Germans, seems to be destroyed.

But the SNCF do not want to know anything about a joint responsibility for the deportations. Whereas the French state accepted the conviction, the SNCF appealed against the conviction of the Toulouse court. Meanwhile the Court of Appeal in Bordeaux quashed the conviction because of formal reasons – but did not say anything about the reasons of the judgement of the judges in Toulouse. A new lawsuit in France is not foreseeable at the moment. More than 60 years after the deportations still is struggled about the truth - for the remained survivors an intolerable situation.

Both films show on the basis of new, in part of Holocaust-Survivors obtained documents and on the basis of contemporary witnesses and statements of historians that the SNCF collaborates with the Germans indeed and was participating in the deportation of the Jews.

But the SNCF was not the only railway company, which acts like this. Also other European railway companies like the Slovakian state railway “Slovenské Zelenznice” and the “Nederlandsche Spoorwegen” participated in the transports.

Like the SNCF although they provided wagons, trains, coal and personal, elaborated schedules, drove human cargo, often pushed in animal wagons, firstly in detention camps, then to the state border, where the German state railway overtook the transports in the extermination camps. Contemporary witnesses reports about the inhuman conditions within the transports.

There were deported about 76.000 Jews from France, 107.000 Jews from Holland and 70.000 Jews from Slovakia.

After the war one do not want to know anything of an involvement in the deportations. The SNCF commissions a film, in which the French state railway is shown as the centre of the resistance. In deed many railway workers had been in the Résistance and fought the Germans military. But no one of the deportation trains was stopped.

Also in Holland was remained silent for a very long time about the disreputable chapter of the collaboration with the German occupants. They say, they have not known, that the humans were murdered in Auschwitz, so the compurgation. But the film shows: Who wanted to know, could have known it – already then circulates flyers and radio massages, which showed what happened in the extermination camps. With its apologize by the Jewish Community of Holland in the year 2005 the Spoorwegen considers the story closed. In Slovakia the processing of this gloomy chapter begins at the moment.

In France Georges Lipietz becomes the great critic of the SNCF and its role within the deportations: It was him, who claimed the SNCF and the French state in front of the Administrative Court in Toulouse in the year 2001. 1944 he was arrested and was brought by a train of the SNCF in the detention campDrancy. Meanwhile Georges Lipietz has died, but his children keep on the fight. They want that the SNCF finally accepts her ethical liability for the participation in the deportations.

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