The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed support for a joint agreement between the governments of France and the U.S. that will provide $60 million in compensation from France to Holocaust survivors and the families of victims of the Holocaust deported from France to Nazi concentration camps during WWII. The fund, subject to a 2015 vote in the French Parliament, transfers $60 million from France that will be administered by the U.S. State Department. Those eligible for compensation include people living in the United States and Israel as well as others whose families were among the 75,000 Jews deported by Vichy France.
In a signing ceremony at the US State Department Treaty Room last week, Stuart Eizenstat, Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Holocaust Issues and the American representative in the negotiations, quoted Elie Wiesel saying, “’This is not really about money. In a deeper sense, it’s about something infinitely more important and more meaningful. It is about the ethical value and weight of memory.’” Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay, who represented France as the Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights in charge of the Holocaust, also said, “This agreement is a further contribution to recognizing France’s commitment in facing up its historic responsibilities…. It is also a great honor to contribute through this agreement in an attempt to a measure of justice, in an attempt, of course, not to repair the irreparable, but to offer material support to the Holocaust survivors.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, who attended the ceremony said, “We note that by agreeing to establish this fund, the French government confirms the historic and moral responsibilities linked to the Nazi Holocaust and WWII Vichy authorities that cannot be erased by time.” Cooper also noted that SNCF, whose trains were used to deport Jews from France enroute to Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps, has again expressed regret for those actions and increased its financial commitment to Holocaust education in France, Israel, and the US. “SNCF has also opened its internal documents from WWII era for scrutiny and use of scholars. One can only hope that SNCF’s actions will spur Japanese companies, who have refused to even apologize for their part in atrocities against American, Chinese, and other prisoners-of-war during WWII, to finally take action while some surviving ex-POWs are still alive,” he concluded.
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