The French government and the country's railway operator SNCF must pay compensation for their role in the deportation of a Jewish family during the Second World War, a court has ordered.

European Green Party legislator Alain Lipietz and his sister Helene launched the lawsuit against SNCF for transporting their father and three other relatives to a transit camp at Drancy near Paris in May 1944. The camp wouldthen send Jews off to Nazi concentration camps.

Lipietz's relatives remained in Drancyfor several months until the camp was liberated in July 1944.

On Tuesday, the court in Toulouse, France ordered the government and the railway to pay about $79,500 US to the family.

"It's a first in France, and we are obviously very satisfied," the family's lawyer, Remi Rouquette, told the Associated Press. The court allowed for the possibility of other similar suits in the coming months, he said.

Yves Baudelot, a lawyer representing the railway company, told Reuters that the court said the SNCF had never objected or protested against conducting the transportations, and had put Jews in freight carriages without food or minimal standards of hygiene.

The French state could not have been unaware that transportation to the Drancy transit camp near Paris was a "prelude to deportation" to concentration camps, Baudelot quoted the judges as saying.

But Baudelot told Reuters he was "amazed by the ruling. I can't understand it."

Hesaid the railway should not be held responsible because it was forced to co-operate with the Germans.

"The SNCF had no liberty of manoeuvre. The [Nazis] told the SNCF by letter that they had to do everything the German authorities wanted, and if someone refused, they would be shot," he said.