German railway fears flood of lawsuits over Holocaust trains

Deutsche Bahn hires law firm to fight off US claims for compensation by Nazi death camp survivors

Berlin

The German railway company Deutsche Bahn has engaged a New York law firm to fight off compensation claims that it might face under proposed legislation enabling Holocaust victims and their relatives to sue for damages in US courts.

The state-owned network is the main successor to the Nazi-run Deutsche Reichsbahn which, along with other railways in German-occupied Europe, deported millions of Jews to death camps during the Second World War.

Deutsche Bahn has in the past compensated Holocaust victims under extensive German government reparations to survivors. The German Foundation Agreement reached with the US in 2000 was considered to have conclusively resolved all outstanding claims against Germany. But under the laws proposed by the US Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which is now before Congress, Deutsche Bahn fears it could face fresh compensation claims in US courts.

Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said: "To the best of my knowledge, no railroad company has ever been forced to compensate deportees. The cardinal question is the degree of independence which each railway company had in dealing with the deportations of the Jews."

Deutsche Bahn has been highly guarded about Holocaust issues in the past. In 2006, it refused to allow a French exhibition about the role of trains in death camp deportations to be shown at German stations. Last year, a group of eastern European victims of the Nazis announced plans to file a suit against the company in an American court.

Contacted by Der Spiegel magazine yesterday, Deutsche Bahn said it had recruited lawyers and PR advisers to monitor the situation in America, but refused to comment further. It is reported to have contracted the New York PR company Strategy XXI Partners to develop a "communications plan related to Holocaust asset issues". The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said it had also engaged the New York legal firm White and Case to deal with "World War II-related issues".

The US law is specifically designed to gain compensation from the French rail group SNCF, but legal experts say it could also apply to other European networks including Deutsche Bahn.

Charles Schumer, a US Senator who is sponsoring the Bill, said that of the 76,000 Jews, resistance fighters and US prisoners deported to Nazi camps by SNCF, only 3 per cent survived.

Previous US attempts to claim against SNCF failed because of legal complications which made it difficult to sue other countries and their government-owned entities in American courts. However, the Holocaust Rail Justice Act would sweep away such restrictions and allow non-American Holocaust survivors to sue European rail firms.

But whether the law would entitle victims to make fresh claims against Deutsche Bahn is still open to debate. Harriet Tamen, a New York lawyer representing 600 Holocaust survivors in a case against SNCF, said the Bill applied only to the French network. "We do not believe this law, once passed, will affect any other railroad in Europe," she said.

However, Richard Weisberg, director of Holocaust and human rights studies at New York's Yeshiva University, said it was clear the law could be applied to other European rail operators which took part in the Holocaust.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices