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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 seven months.

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 Washington.

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


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