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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 03:35 GMT 04:35 UK
France fined for deporting Jews
The "Wall of Names" inaugurated in Paris in 2005 which shows names of those deported
Between 1942 and 1944, some 76,000 French Jews were deported
France's government and state railway have been ordered to pay compensation for deporting Jews during World War II.

The case was brought by people whose relatives were taken by train to a transit camp at Drancy near Paris during the Nazi occupation of France.

More than 75,000 French Jews were transported from the camp to death camps in Germany.

A court in Toulouse found the French state and the rail firm SNCF had been complicit in crimes against humanity.

The government and SNCF have been ordered to pay compensation of 60,000 euros ($80,000, 43,000) to the family.

Campaigners have called it a landmark decision, but the SNCF says it plans to appeal.

The court recognised that these were not the actions of individuals or of some collaborator or another but the responsibility of the state
Alain Lipietz

"I'm amazed by the ruling. I can't understand it," a lawyer acting for SNCF said.

Yves Baudelot said the company could not be held responsible because it had been forced to cooperate with German occupying forces during the war.

"The SNCF had no choice. The (Nazis) told the SNCF by letter that they had to do everything the German authorities wanted, and if someone refused, they would be shot," he said.

That argument has been accepted by judges in previous cases, who ruled that the SNCF had been commandeered by German forces during the war.

"Historic"

The case was brought by Alain Lipietz, a member of the European Parliament, and his sister, Helene.

They told the court how their father and several other relatives were rounded up in Toulouse in mid-1944 and put on a train to Drancy.

French President Jacques Chirac looks at pictures of Jews sent to camps from France at the new memorial of the Holocaust in Paris in 2005
President Chirac has acknowledged France's role in the deportations

Mr Lipietz, whose father and another relative survived, described the ruling as "historic".

"It is the first time in history that the state and the SNCF as such have been condemned. The court recognised that these were not the actions of individuals or of some collaborator or another but the responsibility of the state," he said.

Records show that the SNCF billed the French state for the journeys and carried on demanding money for the transfers even after France had been liberated.

Mr Lipietz said the judgement was recognition that the wartime state and its railways had done rather more than what had been asked of them by the occupiers.

The subject of France's wartime conduct is still a taboo in much of the country, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says.

President Chirac's recognition in 1995 of France's role in deporting its Jews helped heal some of the rawer wounds - and made the judgement possible, our correspondent says.


SEE ALSO:
Timeline: France
18 Apr 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: France
18 Apr 06 |  Country profiles


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