A 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who was scheduled to testify before a Maryland House committee Monday died over the weekend.
Leo Bretholz of Pikesville, Md., was born in Austria and jumped from a train car bound for Auschwitz in 1942, WBAL reported.
"Bretholz devoted his life to sharing his story of survival with thousands of school children across the globe, giving endless talks so no one would forget the story of the Holocaust," WBAL said.
Bretholz died Saturday, two days after his 93 birthday, according to a statement from the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.
He would have testified before the House Ways and Means Committee Monday in favor of legislation that would require companies involved in transporting victims to concentration camps during World War II to pay reparations before being permitted to bid for public-private partnership projects in Maryland.
Keolis America, which is majority-owned by the French rail company SNCF, is one of four consortia 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.
The president of SNCF America President Alain Leray said he understands the anger of the Holocaust families but said reparations should be paid by the French government, not his company.
“We were placed under the German laws of war, and anybody who would disobey would be murdered, shot,” he said.
Bretholz had recently posted a petition on Change.org calling on SNCF to reparations and support the legislation.
"The passion Leo expressed in telling his story was palpable and captivating for all who were lucky enough to hear it," a statement from the coalition read in part. "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."
Friend and fellow Holocaust survivor Rosette Goldstein flew in from Florida to speak at the House committee hearing in Bretholz' memory.