Insurance companies give in
and agree to pay Holocaust-era claims
By Associated Press
A commission administering Holocaust-era insurance claims will begin assessing them by
the end of July, its chairman said recently.
The announcement came after negotiators broke a deadlock on paying for claims in
eastern and central Europe. The issue of claims in countries that became communist after
World War II was the final stumbling block for the commission, which has been meeting for
Communist governments nationalized insurance company branches, but either refused to
meet their liabilities or paid out according to calculations that rendered the claims
virtually worthless. The insurance companies represented on the commission had argued that
those communist-era actions relieved them of further payment responsibilities.
Insurance regulators and Jewish groups disagreed, and recently the companies
capitulated. Claims will be paid in the real value of the dollar equivalent of the local
currency at the time the policy was taken out.
The bulk of claims in those countries is held by two of the five companies on the
commission Assicurazioni Generali of Italy and Allianz of Germany. The other three
companies are AXA of France and Winterthur and Zurich of Switzerland. More than 20
insurance companies have chosen not to participate and are more likely to face sanctions
in United States courts.
The commission's chairman, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, says
the claims process would begin at the July 21 and 22 meeting of the commission in
Several minor disputes remain. Unlike the other companies, Generali has agreed to
publish names of Jewish policyholders once it checks its list against the database of Jews
who perished in the Holocaust that is administered by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust
authority. The project will cost them $200,000.
Insurance regulators and Jewish groups hope the other companies do the same.
June 28, 1999