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Survivor Speaks On New Md. Holocaust Disclosure Law

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Remembering the Holocaust. That’s what a new state law is designed to do.

As Gigi Barnett explains, it’s the first of its kind, and one Holocaust survivor hopes Maryland can be a trailblazer.

It was a dark night in 1942 when Leo Bretholz jumped from a moving train. He was 22, and the leap saved his life.

“It was fear that motivated me,” he recalled. “F.E.A.R.”

The final destination: A Nazi concentration camp.

“We didn’t know, but it was Auschwitz,” Bretholz said. “We later knew. Nobody ever came back from there. And, 72 hours later, I would have been gassed.”

Sixty-nine years later, Bretholz owns a law signed by Governor Martin O’Malley requiring the same rail company– that years ago transported Bretholz  and millions others– to disclose all records about the victims it hauled and the thousands of dollars in valuables taken from them before they boarded.

“This governor did something that is an example for other states. He is the first one that did it,” Bretholz said.

The Paris-based rail company — Keolis — was paid millions to transport more than 77, 000 Jews to concentration camps.

While the company has acknowledged what happened, Bretholz says it’s not enough.

And Keolis has recently bid on a contract to operate for MARC commuter trains.

“You know how they got paid? Sending people to their death by the Germans– per head and per kilo. They made money then and if they get a contract here they will make more money here. It’s all a matter of dollars and cents,” Bretholz said.

Bretholz says the new law should send a message.

“I hope that it is a message that  . . . it will never pay to do evil things,” he said.

Bretholz says Maryland is not alone. Keolis has made similar bids on rail contracts in California and Florida.

Supporters of the new law say it will force more transparency from other companies like Keolis.

More from Gigi Barnett
  • Doug

    Only lawyers will make out.
    Other then that,you’ll just discourage great companies from doing business here and employing people.
    Did you think of that, pops?

    • torp

      What about all the US companies that helped (and more) the nazis, but also the fascists and other States-scales-crimes in the 60’s 70’s end so on ?
      Ford, ITT, Standard Oil, general Motors, IBM, Esso (Exxon), Kodak etc

      Just type “dehomag” on your search engine…

      Do what i say, not what i do…

    • Paulette

      Who’s the one who sounds bitter, hmmm…

  • Edie

    I can assure all of you that my dad, Leo, is an amazingly non-bitter “old Jew” (who, by the way, drives a modest old car). He certainly doesn’t need me to come to his defense, but I will say that while he agrees that the company should disclose records and acknowledge their role in the Nazi effort, he’s not one to stand on a soapbox for such matters. After being asked numerous times to get involved, he finally agreed to speak out. There are so few Holocaust survivors remaining, so he decided to do his part. Leo is an incredibly smart, friendly, and funny guy. He has every right to be bitter, but he is kind and forgiving. You should check his book out of the library and read it. When you do, you’ll see that you are sadly mistaken. Maybe you should take a cue from him and open your mind. Just a suggestion.

    • torp

      I’m sure he is a brave old man, but do you know the word “manipulated” ?

    • Joan McGrath

      Thank you, Edie. Having met your Dad, I can vouch that all you say about him is true. Great post.

  • Carlene Corriveau Logan

    I am appalled at some of the responses. Then again, this is a dark world we live in. No real surprises.

    To Leo and all the other remaining survivors, you have my deep compassion and admiration.

  • Stanley Bright

    History repeats itself. Allowing these companies to exist disgusts me. Hitler rose to power during a time in Germany very similar to what we have here now. Allowing these companies to operate and make profit would only empower them to repeat history. Not saying they would– but they shouldn’t be in a position to. Esp. off of government contracts!
    I want to thank Mr.Bretholz for having the courage to speak out.

  • JB Meharg

    I have had the pleasure of hearing Mr.Bretholz speak at Carroll Community College and have read his book. We should be so lucky to have many more people be like him at the age he has acheieved. This gentleman is smart, articulate, energetic and put many people I know half his age to shame. My grandaughter encouraged me to attend this event and I am so glad I did. I think many more people should sit and listen to the life story he tells and read his book. When many people just turn thier heads to the “ganging up” of any group of people they have lost there humanity. I did not detect any bitterness in Mr Bretholz…only sadness and anger that so many would stand by and allow this to happen. Wake up Americans..we are living in a small world with the internet and our hand held devices. The world is now our neighbors and if we all stand together wrong will be proven wrong and held to atone no matter what religion you are. Take a stand for if we don’t we will surely sink into our mire of Reality TV, tatoos and partying, What legacy do we leave our children?

  • Michael Hyatt

    I had a uncle who survuved the camps, I was lucky enough to know him, but to young to understand what he went threw, I wish I was older to understand what the hell happened to all those people. this was a vvery sad time in history and hopw something like this never happens again. All the countries that tried to end this waited too long while so many eople died. If thee is a next time maybe they won’t wait so long before going in there and doing somrthing about it. Michael Hyatt

  • Bill

    I understand we should ‘never forget’, and this is one of the most sensitive subjects people openly discuss; however, governments have turnover, company managements teams come and go, company mission statements change, ideologies shift. Equate this situation to this: your great grandfather abused a child and now you are being asked to register as a sex offender.

    • Mason

      I understand what you are trying to say.

      The law is useless because of the fact that management teams and ideologies change. Makes about as much since as boycotting XYZ because their products promoted the enslavement of blacks in the south 200 years ago.

    • Mike

      Let me ask you this. You had your home, your belongings, your life taken away from you. You were put to work in slave conditions through out the war. When the war was over you were given nothing. Nothing to help you start over, and even when you try to sue for wages you get nothing. The people who commit these atrocities for the most part get away with it. Some only spending a few years in prison then settling into a nice pension for the rest of their lives. IG Farben most famous for employing those from Auschuwitz hardly had anything happen to them. To this day they haven’t even tried to help out those they profited off of.

      Your comparison between what those men and women went through to the child molestation equation is both ridiculous and takes away from the seriousness of the issue.

  • DC603


    I agree that the role these companies had during the Holocaust were abominable.

    However, it hardly makes sense to say that these companies shouldn’t exist anymore. I’d be surprised if there was a single person working at any of these companies that was actually alive when this happened. The current employees, other than by the company they work for, have no ties whatsoever to what happened during the holocaust. That doesn’t mean we can’t have deep compassion for Mr. Bretholz and other survivors, or families of those who didn’t survive. These two things are not mutually inclusive.

    Where does this end? Because really, if a law like this can stand, this paves the way for others… perhaps you’ll need to disclose before bidding on contracts if your company once used child laborers..once used slaves…Where does this end?

  • Mebe Dawn

    thanks for stopping another big business from coming to Maryland. I wish people would get over the past and move forward in life. IF we keep dwelling and paying for the past we will have no future for our children! Its written in a book. People will believe it just like the bible.. It is HISTORY!!!!!

  • FGG

    Doug ~ my son happened to be the attorney who worked for Mr Bretholz — pro bono, I may add — to help get this law passed. The only thing he gained was knowing that he helped another fellow human being. As for assuming Keolis is a great company — are you for real?????????

  • Beth

    To those who say that Leo Bretholz is a bitter man, I say that you have never heard him speak,read his book, or met him. If you had done any one of these, you would know how wrong your opinion is. It’s easy to judge when you don’t have a more complete understanding, and you were not the one being targeted. Leo is a kind, gracious, gentle man. The last thing he is is bitter. As he has said, “If I am bitter, then the Nazis have won”. There is a difference between being bitter and seeking justice. Survivors speak so that a similar tragedy doesn’t happen to others — like you perhaps.

  • torp

    The point is that companies must amend what they have done wrong during the WW2 (why only WW2 ? There’s a lot to say about companies’ role in southern america or the middle east in more recent years …).
    Anyway, the task of saying so is very simple when it is about a company that was clearly nazi during the war or clearly not in a nazi country during this period of time.
    It’s a little bit harder when we talk about a company that was in an ocuppied country and, by the way, totally under nazi control.
    The french railway company (clearly directly concerned by this law) was a t the same time an instrument of the nazi, and a symbol of resistance to the occupation of France.
    When a train driver refused to drive a train to the camps, the nazi had a particular efficient solution: he was forced to get into the train as “passenger”…
    That was the case of Leon Bronchard, a communist resistant in the region of toulouse.
    Not many of his coleagues tried the same thing after that, what would have you done in this situation ?
    the nazi germans were not funny guys…
    More than 2000 members of the SNCF were shoot down by germans for “sabotage”. And the action of resistance to the nazis could fill up many books.
    So, let me doubt tht the goal of this law, a this moment , is impartial and fair…

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