Ellen Lightman is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her whole life, she grew up without her maternal grandparents who were murdered by the Nazis.
“My mother came to this country in 1940 and my father in 1938. My mother’s parents, my paternal great grandparents and my paternal aunt – along with 40,000 other Jews from southwestern Germany – were transported to the labor camp, Camp Gurs, in southwestern France,” explains Ellen. “Those that didn’t die there were then moved to Auschwitz to perish.”
Ellen’s family was transported toward Auschwitz by the French Railroad, SNCF.
As Ellen aged, she knew she wanted to do something to take a stand, to achieve some justice for the lives of her family members and all the others – Jews and non-Jews – who perished in the Holocaust. Roughly 10 years ago, she joined a group of survivors and defendants of survivors to seek justice from the French railroad, to make the railroad apologize for its support and collaboration with the Nazis and to provide some reparations. This past year, Maryland agreed to take some action that will be effective in making that happen: the state legislature passed a law stating that any railroad company that wants to bid on the high-speed rail the state is embarking on building – and that is a very lucrative project – has to open its records of activities during the war.
“The French railroad wants to bid on the contract,” Ellen says, explaining that the company fought tooth-and-nail to stop the legislation.
“In large part, because of THE ASSOCIATED and the Baltimore Jewish Council, the state of Maryland voted in favor of the legislation. The work of THE ASSOCIATED helped us to get this legislation passed,” she says.
Of course, this does not mean the railroad cannot bid on contracts. It says it must open its lists of activities during the war years. However, once that happens, there is more solid ground for going forward and seeking some justice from the company.
Says Ellen: “This support is just one example of how THE ASSOCIATED ensures that those who perished in the Holocaust are never forgotten and that those who survived this tragic period are honored.”
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