California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill requiring companies bidding on the state’s high-speed rail contract to disclose their roles in transporting Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
The legislation, which overwhelmingly passed the state’s Assembly and Senate over the summer, did not name a specific company. However, the bill’s chief sponsor, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, made it clear that the main target was the French national railway SNCF.
In vetoing the Holocaust Survivors Responsibility Act on Sept. 30, Schwarzenegger said he sympathized with victims of the Nazi deportations, but that the legislation “needlessly places the state in a position of acknowledging the activities of companies during that time.”
SNCF is now expected to bid for a major role in the $45 billion project, which is expected to carry passengers by 2020 from Los Angeles to San Francisco and Sacramento at speeds of 220 miles per hour.
Blumenfield had charged that SNCF had profited from its wartime collaboration, and never admitted its actions, disclosed its record or was held accountable to victims.
In the company’s defense, SNCF officials asserted that the French railway system was under German control during most of the war and that the Nazis executed about 800 railroad workers and deported another 1,200 for disobeying orders.
Following Schwarzenegger’s veto, the railroad company released a statement pledging “complete transparency of its WWII history” and full compliance with the requirements the bill would have mandated.