clearn.png
Friday October 18th, 2019 7:44PM

Aging Holocaust survivors try to sue over Nazi-era insurance

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

AVENTURA, Fla. (AP) — When David Schaecter was a child in Slovakia in the 1930s, he counted more than 100 people in his extended family. By the end of World War II, he alone survived. The rest had been killed in Nazi concentration camps or by roving SS death squads.

Schaecter lost not only his family, but all they owned, including life insurance covering his murdered relatives. And as time runs out on aging Holocaust survivors, some are trying to recover insurance policies that were not honored by Nazi-era companies, which could be worth at least $25 billion altogether in today's dollars, according to the Holocaust Survivors' Foundation USA.

The survivors want to take insurance companies to court in the U.S. to recover the money, but it would take an act of Congress to allow it.

For nearly two decades, the foundation members have tried and failed to gain access to U.S. courts.

"This is an insult to humanity," said Schaecter, 90, president of the organization and a survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. "I think they are trying to sweep it under the carpet. The fact is, we are a dying breed. There are so few of us left."

As another season of high holy days concludes for Jews with Yom Kippur on Wednesday, the Holocaust survivors group is optimistic that a recent hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the stolen insurance issue may lead to change.

They gathered this week at Mo's Bagels and Deli in the Miami suburb of Aventura to talk it over.

"This is our last hope," said David Mermelstein, also 90, who leads a Miami-Dade chapter of the group. "How can a Holocaust survivor be a second-class citizen under American law?"

The answer is complicated.

The Nazis under Adolf Hitler's "final solution" killed an estimated 6 million Jews and others deemed undesirable by the German government, including gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled. It began slowly once Hitler rose to power, with Jews prevented from certain jobs and schools, and then the 1938 attack by Nazi gangs on Jewish homes, stores and synagogues known as Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass."

Since the war's end, the German government has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations to Holocaust survivors and other victims of the Third Reich. The International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims, formed in the 1990s with U.S. backing, has paid out $305 million on these issues, plus $200 million in humanitarian aid.

Germany, and insurance companies such as Munich-based Allianz SE and Italy's Assicurazioni Generali, say the commission's actions should provide finality — "legal peace," in the terminology of the deal — on the insurance claims.

They also say they will repay verifiable claims, but verification is difficult given the passage of time and the wartime destruction of so many records. The companies have demanded original paperwork, such as death certificates, that were simply not available after the war.

The insurers had close Nazi ties. A former Allianz chairman in 1933 became Hitler's economics minister. The company today is one of the world's largest insurers, and insists it will not shy away from the past.

"While we cannot undo any aspect of our company's history, we can learn from it and work to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust are never again repeated," Anja Rechenberg, Allianz's corporate responsibility spokesperson, said in an email. "To this day, Allianz continues to pay any verifiably unsettled claims."

Mermelstein recalls as a child his parents having a plaque in their house labeled "Generali", the name of the Italian insurer with which they had a policy. He also recalls an insurance agent coming around to collect the premiums.

"Of course we have no documents for obvious reasons," he said.

Trieste-based Generali said it's committed to paying claims whenever possible.

"Generali's long-standing commitment to resolving claims of victims of the Holocaust and their heirs is well established and unequivocally remains in place today," the company said in an email.

In Congress, bills have been filed over the years to allow American Holocaust survivors access to the U.S. courts. None have passed, and other Jewish groups have opposed them. These groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, have decided instead to support the claims arrangement created in the 1990s.

In addition to permitting lawsuits against insurance companies, many of the bills would have required the companies to disclose lists of policies held by Jews before World War II.

The survivors say given the efficiency and meticulous record-keeping of the Third Reich, it's hard to believe such lists don't exist.

"If you know German bureaucracy, there isn't a 'T' that hasn't been crossed. They kept a real strict record,' said Vera Karliner, whose husband Herb was on the ship named the St. Louis that was full of Jewish refugees but was turned away from the U.S. in 1939. Herb Karliner, now 93, survived the Holocaust.

As the aging Holocaust survivors await congressional action on their long-ago stolen insurance policies, many are in frail health, in need of assistance for things like prescription drugs and medical needs. All of them say they simply want justice.

Their lawyer, Sam Dubbin, says it's time for lawmakers to do something.

"Because the current law is a result of court decisions based on misleading and unprecedented executive branch positions, only Congress can provide the necessary remedy — legislation to require the companies to publish policy information and to provide a clear right of action for claimants in U.S. courts," Dubbin said.

_____

Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Killer's lifetime of evil backed up by a prodigious memory
Serial killer Samuel Little's depravity is matched only by his prodigious memory
5:02PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Aging Holocaust survivors try to sue over Nazi-era insurance
Holocaust survivors seek access to U.S. courts over billions of dollars in insurance policies that were never honored by Nazi-era companies
5:00PM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: PG&E to shut off power to 800,000 in California
A Northern California utility says it will shut off power to more than 800,000 customers in 34 counties to reduce the risk of wildfire amid dry, windy conditions
4:57PM ( 12 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Trump escalates impeachment fight, barring envoy's testimony
President Donald Trump and his administration are escalating a standoff with Congress over House Democrats' impeachment investigation
4:57PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Stocks skid as tensions flare ahead of US-China trade talks
Stocks closed broadly lower on Wall Street Tuesday as tensions between the U.S. and China flared ahead of talks aimed at resolving the trade war between the world's two biggest economies
4:50PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Wisconsin GOP to let disabled Democratic lawmaker call in
A paralyzed Wisconsin lawmaker would be allowed to call into committee meetings he can't attend in person under rule changes Republicans unveiled that are designed to meet demands the Democrat made nearly a year ago
4:49PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Senators warn of foreign social media meddling in US vote
Senate intel committee urges Trump administration to reinforce danger of foreign interference in US elections
4:06PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump shifts tone on Turkey in effort to halt Syria invasion
President Donald Trump has moved from threatening to obliterate Turkey's economy if it invades Syria to inviting its president to visit the White House
3:55PM ( 1 hour ago )
Bernie Sanders says he should have listened to his symptoms
Vermont senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders says he was "dumb" not to have listened to the symptoms he was experiencing before he was stricken with a heart attack last week
3:47PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Italian lawmakers back overhaul to reduce their seats
Italy's parliament approved on Tuesday to slash the number of lawmakers, a constitutional overhaul that has been strongly advocated by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement
2:09PM ( 3 hours ago )
Supreme Court weighs LGBT people's rights
A seemingly divided Supreme Court struggled Tuesday over whether a landmark civil rights laws protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment
1:37PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Classified briefing on Syria set for Hill staff
The Trump administration will hold a classified briefing on Syria for House and Senate staff Tuesday afternoon, according to congressional aide familiar with the meeting
1:26PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Arizona now has misgivings about Purdue opioid settlement
Arizona's attorney general is having misgivings about agreeing to accept Purdue Pharma's proposal to settle litigation over the opioid crisis
4:19PM ( 51 minutes ago )
World Bank: Trade tensions could block path out of poverty
World Bank: Trade tensions could block path out of poverty for world's developing countries
4:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
Parent of Toys R Us teams up with Target to power online biz
Parent of Toys R Us teams up with Target to power online business as iconic toy chain readies launch of 2 stores in November
3:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
IMF chief: trade conflicts fuel synchronized global slowdown
New IMF leader warns that global economy being hurt by rising trade conflicts
10:28AM ( 6 hours ago )
California OKs pharmacists to dispense HIV prevention meds
California's governor has signed legislation that will allow patients to buy HIV prevention pills from pharmacists without a prescription
7:31PM ( 21 hours ago )
Major US stock indexes veer broadly lower in choppy trading
A day of choppy trading on Wall Street ended Monday with stocks broadly lower as the market extended its losing streak into a fourth week
4:43PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Industries
Hong Kong suspends trains, again rallies after 'dark day'
All subway and train services are suspended, lines formed at the cash machines of shuttered banks, and shops closed as Hong Kong dusted itself off and then started marching again
3:47AM ( 3 days ago )
Fed chairman says goal is to keep economy in 'good place'
Fed Chairman Powell says goal is to keep economy in good place 'as long as possible'
3:38PM ( 4 days ago )
India's central bank cuts interest rate, downgrades outlook
India cuts key interest rate, lowers economic growth forecast
5:03AM ( 4 days ago )
AP Business - Financial Services
Killer's lifetime of evil backed up by a prodigious memory
Serial killer Samuel Little's depravity is matched only by his prodigious memory
5:02PM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: PG&E to shut off power to 800,000 in California
A Northern California utility says it will shut off power to more than 800,000 customers in 34 counties to reduce the risk of wildfire amid dry, windy conditions
4:57PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Couple get month sentence in college bribery scandal
A business executive and his wife have been sentenced to a month each in prison for paying $125,000 to rig their daughter's college entrance exams
4:51PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Jury convicts New York bomb-planter in shootout with police
A New Jersey man already serving life for planting bombs in New York City has been convicted of attempted murder and assault stemming from a shootout with police
2:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
APNewsBreak: Wisconsin GOP to let disabled lawmaker call in
Republicans who control the Wisconsin Assembly intend to change their rules to allow a paralyzed Democratic lawmaker to phone into committee meetings he can't attend in person
2:18PM ( 2 hours ago )