Decades after their families were murdered in Nazi death camps, survivors of the Holocaust are demanding that insurance companies return their money. With Obama coming to Miami on Thursday, the home office of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA is hoping to get his attention to step in.
Insurance firms including Allianz, AXA and Generali will not hand down insurance policies to survivors and their descendants without proper paperwork, such as death certificates or insurance policies -- papers almost impossible to produce by Holocaust survivors.
“They actively solicited and obtained business from the Jewish community and turned their backs on them,” said Sam Dubbin, Coral Gables attorney for the foundation. “They collected their premium and never paid the beneficiaries.”
When the International Commission for Holocaust Era Insurance Claims was formed in 1998, there were more than 800,000 families waiting for their money, according to the Jewish Political Studies Review, who reported a conservative estimate of the value owed in 2003 was $19 billion. The ICHEIC stopped accepting claims and appeals in 2004, with only $306.24 million paid to 48,000 claimants by the time of its last statistical report in 2007.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations have deemed that the survivors do not have a right to take the insurance companies to court. Federal bills that would reverse this (HR 890 and SB 466) are active in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, with supporters on both sides of the aisle.
David Schaecter and other local advocates for the bills are working with U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who have been encouraging Obama to talk with the group if not this weekend, a concrete time in the future. A survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald who is president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA and co-founder of the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, Schaecter has worked for decades to get insurance companies to release names of policy holders and return the money. Just this month, the group protested a golf tournament sponsored by Allianz in Boca Raton. Reports the Palm Beach Post:
Highly placed Allianz executives were early financial supporters of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. One Allianz official was part of Hitler's government, at the same time that Allianz insured people and institutions of the Nazi government.
And, in what might be considered the ultimate conflict of interest, Allianz sold thousands of life insurance policies to Jews during the 1930s and 1940s, while at the same time insured death camps where 6 million Jews were exterminated.
After the war, when survivors attempted to file claims on their life insurance policies, Allianz refused them for lack of documentation, though it was a well-known policy of the Nazis to destroy documents of death-camp prisoners and rarely to issue death certificates for those who died in the camps.
Allianz does not dispute the facts.
The only remaining member of his 105-person Slovakian family, Schaecter laments what he sees as misplaced priorities.
“I need to ask the President of the United States why would he favor all these gigantic insurance companies all over the world over the constituents of this country, people who have lived in this country for so long now, who pay their taxes?” he asked.