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April 13, 2021 3:27 pm

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced in US Congress to Reclaim Unpaid Insurance Policies of Holocaust Victims

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

The ‘Hall of Names’ commemorating victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Photo: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 800,000 unclaimed Holocaust-era insurance policies are the focus of new legislation introduced in the US Congress on Tuesday in a bid to “restore the rights of Holocaust-era insurance beneficiaries in recovering billions in unclaimed payments that were left behind amid the chaos and destruction of World War II.”

A statement announcing the bipartisan legislation — introduced in the House by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — noted that  “97 percent of the approximately 800,000 policies held in 1938 have yet to be honored.”

“The insurers’ demand that death certificates and original policy paperwork be produced was all but impossible for many of those families who, at the time, had just survived death camps, experienced forced relocations, torture, and death marches,” the statement pointed out.

The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2021 would validate state laws requiring insurers to publish policy holder information, establish a federal cause of action in US courts to ensure Holocaust survivors and heirs have access to US courts and provide a ten-year period of time for cases to be brought after the date of enactment.

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“The Holocaust remains humanity’s darkest hour, leaving a permanent stain on history for all nations,” Sen. Rubio said. “Congress must continue to do everything we can to support survivors and their families. It is unthinkable that a large number of Holocaust-era insurance claims remain unpaid. It is far past time that survivors and their families retrieve what they are rightfully owed.”

Rep. Wasserman Schultz asserted that it was “the victims of the Holocaust and their families who should be the heirs to unpaid policies that were set aside for times of trouble — not the insurance companies.”

News of the legislation was welcomed by Jewish groups and Holocaust survivor associations.

“No-one can ever repay us for the murder and destruction of the Holocaust,” David Schaecter, president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, declared in a statement. “Yet, insurers that profited from the Holocaust, like Allianz, Generali, AXA and others, have never been held accountable.”

Continued Schaecter: “These companies owe more than $25 billion to Holocaust victims, while so many survivors are living in poverty and misery, enduring suffering that should have never been allowed. This vital legislation will allow survivors, and our children and grandchildren, to recover our family histories and legacies. Equally as important, it will expose details about the insurers’ history of collaboration with Nazi authorities.”

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