US Holocaust Legislation: German National Railway Fears Flood of Lawsuits

Germany's national railway, Deutsche Bahn, has hired a law firm and PR agency in the United States to prepare for legislation being considered by Congress that would allow Holocaust survivors to sue European railway companies for damages in American courts. Deutsche Bahn fears victims could sue for millions if the legislation passes.

The railway track at the main gate of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Zoom
REUTERS

The railway track at the main gate of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

Officials at Germany's Deutsche Bahn national railway appear to be concerned about the possibility of lawsuits demanding millions in damages from Holocaust survivors in United States courts. SPIEGEL has learned that the national railway hired a New York law firm and a public relations agency at the end of 2011 to observe legislation being considered in Congress that would provide the basis for possible lawsuits.

The PR agency, which specializes in crisis management, is also supposed to promote Deutsche Bahn's viewpoint by lobbying in Washington. When contacted by SPIEGEL, a Deutsche Bahn spokesperson confirmed that a company's services had been retained but would not comment on further details. On Sunday, the firm also confirmed it had hired the services of the New York law firm to observe and analyze the legislation.

The proposed Holocaust Rail Justice Act would allow survivors who were transported by the French national railway, SNCF, to Nazi death camps during the German occupation of France to sue in American courts. The bill's sponsor, Senator Charles Schumer, says that more than 76,000 Jews, resistance fighters and a small number of US prisoners of war were deported to the camps on SNCF trains. Only 3 percent survived.

Would Law Cover Deutsche Bahn?

In the past, lawsuits against SNCF have failed in the United States because of the hazy legal situation. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) made it extremely difficult to sue other countries or their government-owned entities in US courts, but the new Holocaust Rail Justice Act would make such suits possible. It would also allow non-US citizens who survived the Holocaust to sue European railway companies in American courts.

For its part, Deutsche Bahn itself has also been confronted with claims for damages from Holocaust survivors on several occasions. Most recently, a group of Eastern European victims of the Nazis announced last year that they would file suit against Deutsche Bahn in a US court. The case, however, has not yet been submitted.

Although the Holocaust Rail Justice Act specifically mentions SNCF by name, its language is also broad enough that it could include Deutsche Bahn, which was known as the Deutsche Reichsbahn during the Nazi era, and other European national railways that were complicit in the National Socialists' crimes against humanity. However, some experts have argued that the German Foundation Agreement, which the US and Germany signed in 2000, resolves all claims involving German entities.

dsl/SPIEGEL

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1. Money, money, money
ioanonimus 04/02/2012
Some people like money more than others. I am waiting for legislation being considered by Germans that would allow Amerindian survivors to sue US government for damages in German courts. But it will not happened as there is no financial lobby like the jewish one to buy parliamentarians for them.
2. US Legislation
jeffreydahn@yahoo.com 04/02/2012
This US Legislation is beyond ludicrous. Allowing non US citizens, residing in another country, the right to sue yet a third country in US Courts borders on the absurd. Yet its own people who were imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese aren't allowed to sue Japan. I see the ugly hand of the Zionist political action committees behind much of this. They are a significant factor in American politics.
3. Another Shakedown by The Holocaust Industry
erikSF99 04/03/2012
This is just another appalling shakedown by The Holocaust Industry. Anyone who has read Norman Finkelstein's "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" knows that none of the money will end up with victims who are all dead now--and if they were alive they wouldn't get the money anyway. Readers of the book know that this money will just go to pay big salaries at non-profits who have set up the perfect extortion racket. The German title of Finkelstein's book is: "Die Holocaust-Industrie: Wie das Leiden der Juden ausgebeutet wird" This book is a must-read. This shake-down racket creates anti-semitism wherever it goes. The book concludes with a clear explanation of how the argumentation behind the holocaust industry racket is a form of holocaust denial. You'll be shocked by the documented truth in Finkelstein's book. Enough is enough.
4. reply
Trojan Horace 04/03/2012
The US Government need to spend a trillion dollars restoring their own rail network, rather than passing legislation to help wreck Germany's. I'm not saying that a solid case can't be reliably made that there weren't in 1940s, systematic enthusiastic collusions with the Third Reich's dictates at the senior management level and probably at all levels of the rail network in Third Reich Germany... anyone lacking "enthusiasm" probably wouldn't have lasted long and all those "special" trains took a lot of coordinating... but those really liable for the crimes committed aren't those being asked for compensation. Isn't it a bit twisted to bankrupt today's German train industry and consequently make the present German tax payer liable for the crimes of others, sixty odd years ago? How much collective guilt is enough? Is that really justice? I say that as someone who lost many relatives on those same trains and at the destinations they took them to. I can't speak for the ghosts of my ancestors but I do wonder if they wouldn't see this as anything but a frivolous abuse to the memory of their sufferings? I'd prefer to see a modest, tasteful plaque to their memory at any market square or station where they were boarded at gun point... that would speak a great deal more eloquently. And would it not also open the US Government up to liability for the lives lost in say their illegal invasion of Iraq, who demonstrably had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 or anything else that discomforted the US? Should Germany then counter-sue for the imposed terms of the Treaty of Verseilles, which produced the conditions that led to the rise of National Socialism? Where does sanity prevail in the land of too many lawyers? Are we trying to reduce antisemitism here or promote it?
5. Thank you!
Yaekle 04/11/2012
Zitat von jeffreydahn@yahoo.comThis US Legislation is beyond ludicrous. Allowing non US citizens, residing in another country, the right to sue yet a third country in US Courts borders on the absurd. Yet its own people who were imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese aren't allowed to sue Japan. I see the ugly hand of the Zionist political action committees behind much of this. They are a significant factor in American politics.
As an American I am ashamed that this is even being contemplated! You are correct, the Zionist PACs wave an unhindered heavy hand and we all tremble out of guilt.
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