In 2011, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a law that requires rail companies bidding on jobs in Maryland to disclose their ties to the Holocaust. At the time, Paris-based Keolis, whose majority owner Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français “historians say was paid to transport nearly 77,000 Jews and other Holocaust victims during World War II,” was bidding to operate MARC trains.
That same year, the company issued a formal apology for its role in the Holocaust, while maintaining that its trains were seized by Nazis during the occupation.
Now, Keolis is again bidding on a Maryland contract, this time to build and operate the light rail Purple Line. The Washington Post notes that the deal — valued at $6 billion — would be one of the state’s biggest contracts ever.
For some, the company’s connection to the Holocaust may seem abstract, but at least one Baltimore resident can recall actually escaping from an SNCF rail-car. Leo Bretholz, 92, finds it “reprehensible” that “this company, which put me on a deportation train bound for Auschwitz and demanded payment to do so, to now seek public contracts — paid for by my tax dollars — while steadfastly refusing to pay reparations and to do what is morally right.”