U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today following extended correspondence with European insurance companies regarding payment of Holocaust-era policies. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"European insurance companies continue to drag their feet and give excuses to avoid paying Holocaust-era policies. These companies claim that the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), which stopped accepting claims almost a decade ago, was a success. Wrong. We can all do the math and see that the numbers do not add up. ICHEIC rejected 84% of the 90,000 claims submitted to the Commission. In another insult, a select number of other claimants received so-called "humanitarian' awards, which were taken by many as a dismissal of their claims.
"Despite repeated attempts by Holocaust survivors, their families, and even Congress, these companies refuse to open their records or honor these policies. What does this accomplish? It runs out the clock on aging Holocaust survivors as the funds from hundreds of thousands of unpaid policies remain in the hands of the insurance companies.
"It is my hope that European insurance companies will stop playing with the lives and emotions of Holocaust survivors. They should open their records so that we can begin identifying unpaid policies. Additionally, Congress must work quickly to pass legislation that would enable survivors to have their day in court to pursue claims against these companies. With survivors now in their eighties and nineties, the window is closing for us to ensure that they see justice in their lifetimes."
NOTE: H.R. 890, the Tom Lantos Justice for Holocaust Survivors Act, was authored by Ros-Lehtinen with her Florida colleague U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), and unanimously passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This bipartisan measure, which currently has 107 co-sponsors, would allow survivors to avail themselves of state laws to have their day in court and to require European insurance companies conducting business in those states to disclose Nazi-era insurance policy information. The measure also establishes a federal right of action to recover proceeds due under the covered policies.