Several thousand Holocaust survivors in the U.S., Israel and other countries can now apply for compensation from a $60 million dollar reparation fund for victims who were transported to Nazi death camps aboard French trains.
"We consider this a very important day. People have waited seventy years," Stuart Eizenstat, the U.S. special adviser on Holocaust issues told reporters.
The state-owned French train company SNCF is accused of helping to deport more than 70,000 Jews while France was under Nazi occupation and the control of the Vichy Government. Last year, the U.S. and France brokered the agreement to offer financial compensation to those who were deported as well as their spouses and orphaned children.
"The amount of $60 million was hotly debated," Eizenstat said in part because neither the U.S. nor France have an exact estimate of the number of those who will be considered eligible. He estimated that there may be less than a hundred living survivors who will qualify for six figure payouts. Depending on the number of claims, their surviving spouses or others "standing in their shoes" could receive payouts in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Given the passage of time and chaos of World War II, it may be difficult for some victims or their families to make their case. Any claimant must demonstrate proof of nationality and evidence that they or their loved ones were deported.
Eizenstat suggested that they begin by researching SNCF's own archives which it recently posted online in English. The three-page application requires claimants to say whether their loved ones survived the war and, if possible, the date, convoy and place of departure when they were deported.
In a jointly issued statement, the French government said it worked with the U.S. to set up the fund to deliver "another measure of justice to those who suffered the harms of one of history's darkest eras."
Starting today the U.S. State Department is accepting claims online via the following link: www.state.gov/deportationclaims.
France is expected to wire the $60 million lump sum to the U.S. Treasury by November 30th and the money will be distributed by the State Department sometime after May 2016.
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