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svgadminsvgNovember 3, 2015svgNews

French-American fund to compensate for Holocaust deportation

Holocaust survivors and family members in the United States, Israel and elsewhere can now apply for compensation from a $60 million fund for those deported to Nazi camps by France’s state rail company SNCF, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The application period for the French-funded, U.S.-administered program opened Tuesday, the news agency noted, and the money will be available for survivors of deportations, or spouses or family members of deportees who have since died.

“We consider this a very important day. People have waited 70 years,” Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. special adviser on Holocaust issues, was quoted as having told reporters.

The compensation will be calculated and distributed after the application deadline on May 31, 2016, once organizers know how many people are eligible. Due to their advanced age, Eizenstat said officials are considering making some payments to survivors before the deadline.

Hundreds of survivors or their spouses in the United States are believed to be eligible for the funds, and several thousand could be eligible as heirs, according to AP. Heirs of deportees would need to submit proof that their ancestor was deported, and what their nationality was.

About 76,000 Jews were arrested in France during World War II and transported in appalling conditions in railway boxcars to concentration camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

In 2011, American lawmakers introduced legislation that opens the door to lawsuits against SNCF over its role in shipping Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.

Although SNCF has acknowledged guilt, it says it was a “cog in the Nazi extermination machine” and forced to obey the orders of the government and the German occupiers.

But last year, France agreed to put $60 million into the American-managed fund to compensate the victims deported by the French rail firm.

As part of the deal, noted AP, the U.S. government agreed to work to end lawsuits and compensation claims against SNCF, which has sought lucrative contracts in U.S. markets.

France’s government has already paid more than $6 billion in reparations to French citizens and certain deportees, the news agency said. The new accord is to help compensate Americans, Israelis and some others who weren’t eligible for other French reparations programs.

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