"They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening"
- George Orwell - 1984

Thursday, October 4, 2007

'Holocaust Survivors' Paid $8 billion

Urge More Litigation

Ambassador Christian Kennedy, a U.S. diplomat seeking compensation and restitution for Holocaust survivors and descendants of victims said Wednesday that cash payments have reached about $8 billion but negotiations for more have so far remained fruitless.

Kennedy and a delegation of Holocaust survivors addressed the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, and insisted negotiations for more payments continue. They complained that life insurance and other policies held by Holocaust victims have been ignored by European insurance companies and that compensation for property seized by the Nazis or the communist governments that followed them in Eastern and Central Europe was insufficient.

"With so much loss of life and the horrors of the Holocaust, there can never be adequate compensation to the victims, particularly at this late date," Kennedy said. "Our work surely embodies an effort to obtain 'imperfect justice.' But I am confident the results we achieved could not have been approached, let alone achieved, had the victims and heirs been left to contend with the uncertainties and costs of litigation," he added.

Kennedy said the $8 billion paid so far came from funds established in Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland in a $1.25 billion settlement of class action lawsuits. In addition, he said the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims paid out $300 million.

The Holocaust survivors urged the subcommittee to pass a bill, co-sponsored by the panel's chairman, Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, that would establish an insurance registry in the United States and require insurance companies to report all Holocaust-era policies on their records.

The law quoted unidentified experts as estimating the value in 2006 of unpaid life, annuity, endowment and dowry insurance theft from European Jewry from the Holocaust and its aftermath ranges between $17 billion and $200 billion.

Jack Rubin, a survivor of Auschwitz who now lives in Florida, said the Italian company Assicurazioni Generali has refused to pay his father's insurance. He told the panel he remembers a sign on his father's general store in Vari, Hungary, that said it was insured by Generali Moldovia, a subsidiary of the Italian company. He also remembers the name of his father's insurance agent, a Jew who died with Rubin's parents at Auschwitz. "Survivors are appalled by the treatment we have received," Rubin said. "We survivors were denied access to the truth."

Marco Schnabl, a lawyer in New York City who represents Generali's U.S. subsidiary, said "Generali would deny that we have hidden anything that they say we have hidden."

In February, a federal judge in New York approved a settlement involving Holocaust victims, their relatives and Generali, ending a decade-long legal battle by families seeking restitution.

Generali already had paid $135 million to settle previous claims. It agreed to accept new claims until March 31. Lawyers involved in the fight for compensation have been arguing for an extension, contending any new insurance records could bolster some claimants' cases.

On Tuesday, an appeals court ruled that the federal court must wait to settle the case until all known potential class members are notified by mail of the deal.
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