German-owned railway hires firm to lobby on Holocaust legislation

Germany’s national railway has hired a strategic communications and outreach firm to lobby Congress on legislation that could clear the way for lawsuits from Holocaust survivors.

Strategy XXI Group will work for Deutsche Bahn AG, a railway company “wholly owned by the German government,” on the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, according to Justice Department records. The railway will pay $45,000 over the three-month span of the contract.

The firm has been hired to“[f]acilitate meetings and conversations with members of Congress and staff related to legislation that may affect principal. This relates to H.R. 1193 and S. 634,” the registration states.

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The House and Senate bills referenced in the registration would allow U.S. district courts to hear civil cases against foreign national railways for their role in moving victims to concentration camps. Although Deutsche Bahn AG is not mentioned in the legislation, the language in the bill seems broad enough to apply to the German railway. 

“The United States district courts shall have original jurisdiction … of any civil action for damages for personal injury or death that (1) arose from the deportation of persons to Nazi concentration camps,” the bills state.

The legislation explicitly targets Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (SNCF), France’s government-owned train company.

SNCF is protected from lawsuits in the United States by foreign sovereign immunity, but the House and Senate bills would bar the railway from using that defense

“SNCF’s refusal to fully acknowledge their culpability or take steps to make amends to their victims is a failure of morality. And SNCF’s ability to evade legal accountability in U.S. courts is a failure of justice,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the main House sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement in November.

Both the House and Senate bills have been referred to the committee of jurisdiction in their respective chambers.

A spokesman for Strategy XXI declined to elaborate on the contract with the German railway.

“There is detailed information in the filing and we have nothing to add. I think it speaks for itself,” Strategy XXI’s Dan Fleshler told The Hill in an email.

Deutsche Bahn AG did not return requests for comment.

Pete Kasperowicz contributed to this report.

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