Complaint seeks reparations for property seized during WWII deportations
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 16), Chicago law firm Much Shelist, along with New York-based counsel, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of the victims of French deportations during World War II and their families.
The suit, which includes a named plaintiff residing in Lincolnshire, Ill., seeks to hold the French national railway, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), accountable for the expropriation of property and belongings confiscated from their families during the deportations of more than 75,000 Jews and other "undesirables" from France to Nazi concentration camps from 1942 to 1944. The complaint also seeks restitution for third-class train fares that were paid by the Nazis to the SNCF for deportees.
The SNCF is a government-owned railway that is one of the 250 largest corporations in the world. SNCF conducts substantial business in the state of Illinois through its subsidiary Rail Europe, Inc., which maintains a Rosemont-based customer service facility.
"My grandparents were transported in SNCF cattle cars to their deaths at Auschwitz in 1942, and their belongings were seized by railroad officials," said plaintiff and Lincolnshire resident Karen Scalin. "No compensation has ever been made to my family and the thousands of other victims of these coercive acts."
Property seized during the deportations included cash, securities, silver, gold, jewelry, works of art, musical instruments and clothing, among other items. The plaintiffs are bringing this action, both individually and on behalf of a class including other Holocaust victims, their heirs and beneficiaries, against SNCF for compensatory and punitive damages, equitable disgorgement of profits and other relief specified in the complaint.
"These seizures were a violation of international law and a crime against humanity, and restitution is long overdue," said Much Shelist attorney Steven P. Blonder, who represents the plaintiffs.
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