It is 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. This legislation would help restore the rights of families who were forced to endure the worst that humanity can inflict on a people.
Washington DC – U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)reintroduced bipartisan legislation today 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.
Due to federal court rulings and a failure by insurance companies to adequately publish the names of recipients and pay these claims, 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.
“It is 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,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This legislation would help restore the rights of families who were forced to endure the worst that humanity can inflict on a people.”
“The Holocaust remains humanity’s darkest hour, leaving a permanent stain on history for all nations,” 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.”
The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2021 is being re-introduced by Wasserman Schultz and Rubio, along with its original co-sponsors, who include Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Rick Scott (R-FL), and Reps. John Garamendi (CA-03), David Kustoff (TN-08), and Lee Zeldin (NY-01). This legislation would:
- Validate state laws requiring insurers to publish policy holder information;
- Establish a federal cause of action in U.S. courts to ensure Holocaust survivors and heirs have access to U.S. courts;
- Provide a 10-year period of time for cases to be brought after the date of enactment.
“Preventing Holocaust survivors and their families from collecting on documented policies is truly tragic, but allowing these global insurance corporations to hold onto this unjust enrichment is an offensive re-victimization that cannot stand,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Various groups have offered their support for the legislation.
“Holocaust survivors are very grateful to Senators Rubio, Rosen, and Scott, and Representatives Wasserman Schultz, Zeldin, and Garamendi, for leading Congress in the quest for accountability from the insurers who betrayed our families. No one can ever repay us for the murder and destruction of the Holocaust. Yet, insurers that profited from the Holocaust, like Allianz, Generali, AXA and others, have never been held accountable. 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,” David Schaecter, of Miami, President of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA said.
“Holocaust survivors are in shock that the U.S. government took away our rights to go to an American court. Insurance policies are contracts, not charity. How would those State and Justice Department officials, and those Judges, feel, if they lost everything, and then their own government said they couldn’t even go to court like every other American citizen? They wouldn’t stand for it, and we shouldn’t have to, either. So, we are very thankful to Senators Rubio, Rosen, and Scott, and Representatives Wasserman Schultz, Zeldin, and Garamendi, for being our voice in Congress to change the law and restore our rights. You are our last hope for justice,” David Mermelstein, President of the Holocaust Survivors of Miami-Dade County said.