When a commission investigating Holocaust-era life insurance policies ended its work in March after nine years, it boasted that it had awarded more than $300 million to survivors and their heirs.
Now, a former commission arbitrator is criticizing the group’s work, alleging that a “phantom rule” was used by some of the dozens of arbitrators, accounting in part for the denial of 84 percent of all claims filed. The arbitrator, Albert B. Lewis, who is also a former New York State insurance superintendent, is calling for a reopening of these cases.
Should unclaimed Holocaust funds be used for anything other than first taking care of the needs of sick, aging survivors?
A growing debate over how perhaps billions of dollars in unclaimed Holocaust restitution and reparation funds should be spent will get its first public airing next week when 500 Jewish communal leaders from across the country meet in Baltimore.
For some Holocaust survivors and their supporters, a Senate subcommittee hearing this week was their last chance to collect on the Nazi-era life insurance policies of their parents.
The survivors asked that Congress adopt legislation that would require insurance companies doing business in the United States to publish the names of all policyholders from the pre-war era. If the companies then refused to settle claims on reasonable terms, survivors and their heirs could sue them during the next 10 years.
Even as a worldwide search was launched to locate and pay insurance policies of Jewish Holocaust victims and their heirs, a major Israeli group rejected offers by the new rightist Austrian government to resolve its outstanding Holocaust-era claims.
"It is imperative that we not fall into Haider's trap and let him use the back of the Jewish people to gain recognition and legitimacy from the world," Salai Meridor, chairman of The Jewish Agency, told The Jewish Week.
A major Dutch insurance company said this week it was willing to join an international commission seeking to resolve Holocaust-era insurance claims: but only if it can use its existing claims process.
That condition was rejected by Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress. He said that unless the company, Aegon, agrees to an audit and other procedures in compliance with international guidelines established for claims processing, his organization's executive board would meet Jan. 25 to call for a boycott of the firm.