The NYT reports today that France has agreed to pay $60 million to compensate Holocaust victims who were deported on the French National Railways during World War II.

SNCF - the French National Railway, home of the TGVThe agreement will have to be approved by the French Parliament, which should not be a major obstacle because the government’s party still holds a majority. It calls for paying the money directly to American and other Holocaust survivors. According to The Times:

In return, the United States is expected to help ease obstacles impeding the French national railway company, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, from participating in railway projects that had been held up by American lawmakers, survivors and their heirs as a way to press for a resolution of the compensation issue.

France will pay the $60 million to the United States in a lump sum, according to The Times, which added:

The money is expected to be distributed to the several thousand survivors, family members and their heirs, officials said.

This agreement is big and important news. No one who has read the history of the war fails to understand that without the complicity of SNCF and its employees the deportation trains could not have taken the Jews from France to Germany and the slave-labor and death camps. Despite the stories of heroic resistance (See The Train, the very entertaining movie with Burt Lancaster), the good citizens of France really had little interest in protecting their Jewish compatriots.

Too bad. Serious moral failures have a very long tail. They are the stuff of myth.

Click here for the NYT web story.