Iran has hired to reconstruct its railways a French government-owned company that has been hit with lawsuits over its reported transportation of more than 75,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps, including the notorious Auschwitz death camp, according to recent contract announcements.
SNCF in recent years has faced a series of lawsuits brought by the survivors and relatives of Holocaust victims over the railway’s alleged deportation from France of around 76,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
SNCF is just one of several European companies vying to do business with Iran in the wake of sanctions relief provided under the recently implemented nuclear agreement.
Iran has already spent more than $43.9 billion to rebuild industries that were targeted by sanctions, including its aviation industry, oil pipelines, refineries, and transportation sector, according to statistics compiled by congressional sources.
Iran separately has inked a $25 billion dollar deal with French airline company Airbus for the purchase of 118 new planes. It also has a $1.1 billion contract with French air manufacturer ATR to purchase 40 turboprop aircraft.
Iran will pay SNCF nearly $8 million to conduct research into upgrading and modernizing Iran’s train stations, according to the International Railway Journal.
SNCF announced earlier this month another deal with Iran to improve station operations and pursue high-speed rail development, according to separate reports.
The deal is being billed as a "protocol of cooperation" between SNCF and Iranian Railways, according to French media reports. The deal will include the "implementation of new mass transit systems" and SNCF will provide assistance in the development of improved rail lines, according to these reports.
SNCF has come under scrutiny from the U.S. Congress and others for its role in the Nazi war effort.
SNCF reportedly sent thousands of Jews and others to the Nazi death camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald, according to the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.
"Between March 1942 and August 1944, SNCF transported 76,000 Jews and other ‘undesirables’ through France to Nazi concentration camps," the organization states on its website. "Included were U.S. and Canadian pilots who had been shot down over France; they were placed on SNCF trains and sent to Buchenwald and Auschwitz instead of prisoner-of-war camps."
"Fewer than 3% of all those deported survived," according to the Holocaust coalition.
There are hundreds of survivors and relatives living in the United States who claimed to have been put aboard an SNCF train.
In 2010, several of the victims testified before Congress about a lawsuit they brought against SNCF, seeking damages and reparations from the French government.
U.S immunity laws prevented these victims from suing the company in American courts.
One survivor who claims to have witnessed SNCF’s actions told Congress at the time, "What I saw there I will never forget my whole life. I saw the French employees push all the men into the cars … I heard screaming and crying, there were bloody corpses on the ground. They were pushed like animals," the Jewish Daily Forward reported.
The victims maintain that SNCF profited from its deal with the Nazis, though the company has disputed this point, claiming that Hitler’s forces ordered it to carry out the deportations.