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Schwarzenegger vetoes bill that would have targeted French high-speed rail firm with Holocaust past

October 1, 2010 |  1:04 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation that would have required rail companies interested in working on the California high-speed train project to admit whether they transported people to concentration camps during World War II.

Though he said he sympathized with the victims of Nazi death camps, the governor rejected the proposed Holocaust Survivors Responsibility Act on Thursday night, contending that it would have needlessly placed the state in a position of acknowledging the activities of companies during a war that ended 65 years ago.

The bill by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) would have forced companies to disclose their role in wartime atrocities if they submitted bids to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is planning an 800-mile system from San Diego to San Francisco.

Though Japanese and German firms would have been subject to the law, Blumenfield specifically targeted SNCF, the French railroad that the Germans used to ship civilians and prisoners of war to concentration camps. Blumenfield said the government-owned firm has neither taken responsibility for its role in the Holocaust nor paid restitution to victims.

"Not all is lost because of the veto, but it is a major setback," said Blumenfield, who added that he might reintroduce the measure next year. "On the positive side, SNCF has promised it will implement the bill. I want to hold them to that."

SNCF, which stands for Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, operates most of France's railroads, including the TGV high-speed train service.

Company officials assert that SNCF was taken over by the Nazis during the German occupation of France from May 1940 to December 1944. According to the railway, about 800 SNCF workers were executed for disobeying orders; another 1,200 were sent to concentration camps.

-- Dan Weikel

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