ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WUSA) - A 93-year-old Holocaust survivor expected to testify at a hearing Monday before the House Ways and Means Committee died two days before the hearing.
Leo Bretholz of Pikesville was planning to testify in favor of legislation that would require companies involved in transporting victims to concentration camps during World War II to pay reparations in order to bid for public-private partnership projects in the state.
Leo unexpectedly passed away Saturday. Rosette Goldstein, a close friend of Leo's and a Holocaust survivor whose family members were sent toward concentration camps on SNCF trains, will speak in Leo's memory.
Keolis America, which is majority-owned by the French rail company SNCF, is one of four consortiums of bidders competing for a contract to build Maryland's Purple Line light rail. Historians say SNCF transported about 76,000 Jews and other prisoners to concentration camps.
Here's the full statement from the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice on the death of Leo Bretholz:
It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce that Leo Bretholz passed away Saturday, two days after his 93rd birthday. For many years, Leo has been the face and the voice of the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice's efforts to ensure that the 76,000 innocent Jews, as well as the thousands of other SNCF victims, who were sent toward the death camps on SNCF trains received the justice they deserved.
Most recently, Leo authored a petition on Change.org, calling on SNCF to pay reparations to its Holocaust-era victims and supporting Maryland legislation that would prevent companies from winning tax-funded rail projects until they were held accountable for deporting innocent victims toward the death camps. That petition has, thus far, received more than 154,000 signatures, and Leo was set to testify on the bill before the Maryland state legislature this week.
The passion Leo expressed in telling his story was palpable and captivating for all who were lucky enough to hear it. He was an incredibly brave man, first for escaping an SNCF train as a boy, later for sharing his story in his book "Leap Into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe" and through his work with our coalition and elsewhere to promote Holocaust education and remembrance. Leo was also an incredibly warm and welcoming man, who was always quick with a joke and a smile. His zeal for life and for his family was and is an inspiration to us all.
To know Leo was to love him and respect him, and our work to ensure justice for him and the thousands of other SNCF victims will continue in his memory.
Per the request of Leo's family, Monday's hearing before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee will go on as planned. Rosette Goldstein, a close friend of Leo's and a Holocaust survivor whose family members were sent toward concentration camps on SNCF trains, will speak in Leo's memory.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)