Last Train to Auschwitz
“Thank you for this remarkable book…I don’t think I fully appreciated the implications of repair for serious trauma involving institutions until reading your account. You are to be thanked greatly for this! A real triumph!”
–Arthur Kleinman, Harvard University
About the Book
In the immediate decades after World War II, the French National Railways (SNCF) was celebrated for its acts of wartime heroism. However, recent debates and litigation have revealed the ways the SNCF worked as an accomplice to the Third Reich and was actively complicit in the deportation of 76,000 Jews and other civilians to death camps. Sarah Federman delves into the interconnected roles—perpetrator, victim, and hero—the company took on during the harrowing years of the Holocaust.
Grounded in history and case law, Last Train to Auschwitz traces the SNCF’s journey toward accountability in France and the United States, culminating in a multimillion-dollar settlement paid by the French government on behalf of the railways. The poignant and informative testimonies of survivors illuminate the long-term effects of the railroad’s impact on individuals, leading the company to make overdue amends. In a time when corporations are increasingly granted the same rights as people, Federman’s detailed account demonstrates the obligations businesses have to atone for aiding and abetting governments in committing atrocities. This volume highlights the necessity of corporate integrity and will be essential reading for those called to engage in the difficult work of responding to past harms.
“A rare book that ably combines historical edification with a moving narrative.”
“A pathbreaking book on Holocaust memory…An important work for understanding the role of businesses in transitional justice.”
-Jean-Marc Dreyfus, University of Manchester
“An excellent, well-written, original contribution to a growing field of business and human rights”
Last Train to Auschwitz engagingly weaves together victims’ narratives and historical and legal archives to provide a compelling contribution to the study of corporate accountability and transitional justice.
– Leigh Payne
University of Oxford
“This work screams out to be a movie”
Federman weaves so compellingly the telling of the railroad’s complicity in the Holocaust, how the symbol of the railroad brings to life allI over again the stories of the individuals involved. It’s both well researched history and completely up to date. The everyday decisions, large and small, of those who worked for the French National Railway and those who managed the FNR come together in these pages. We will never look at trains the same way again. As Federman says of those harrowing days: “Trains often played complex roles in survivors’ lives. Trains were sites of interrogation and deportation but also places where couples fell in love or hid during risky escape attempts.
– Carol Ash
Board Chair at Carey Institute for Global Good
"As a retired military officer, I have read extensively about World War II, but learned very little about the culpability of the trains. I found the book enlightening, although an intense read. I highly recommend it."
Dr. Sarah Federman