New York Gov. George Pataki recently announced that $2.3 million in offers have been made to Holocaust survivors and their heirs for insurance policies held with companies that were either liquidated or nationalized after World War II. The offers went to 128 claimants worldwide and were issued through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC).
“While money cannot compensate for the wrongs inflicted upon these individuals and their families during the Holocaust, we are pleased that these long-overdue payments have been secured,” the Governor said. “We created the Holocaust Claims Processing Office so that legitimate claims would be provided to people who have suffered so much, and these offers represent another step towards ensuring that people get what is rightfully theirs.”
The potential beneficiaries include residents of New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas as well as those residing in the Czech Republic, many of whom originally filed claims through the New York State Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO). Governor Pataki established in 1997 the HCPO – the first of its kind in the nation – to assist Holocaust survivors and their heirs in resolving banking, insurance, and art claims from the Holocaust era. The insurance claims that led to these offers were in almost every instance reviewed by ICHEIC with advisory assistance from the HCPO, a division of the New York State Banking Department.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) established ICHEIC in 1998 in cooperation with several European insurance companies, European regulators, and representatives from several Jewish organizations as well as the State of Israel. Lawrence Eagleburger, a former U.S. Secretary of State, is ICHEIC’s chairman and New York State Insurance Superintendent Gregory Serio is an ICHEIC member and chair of the NAIC’s International Holocaust Commission Task Force.
Serio said, “Governor Pataki has won a national reputation for bringing a measure of justice to families that suffered great losses during the Holocaust. The New York State Insurance Department will continue to use all of the resources at its disposal until these families receive what is owed to them.”
Banking Superintendent Diana Taylor added, “In the seven years since Governor Pataki created the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, we have established a remarkable track record and I am very proud that most recently we have been able to play a small part in ICHEIC’s efforts. We will continue to assist Superintendent Serio and ICHEIC in every way possible to help expedite future settlements.”
Many of the Insurance Department’s powers in this regard were codified in the State’s Holocaust Victim’s Insurance Law, which Governor Pataki signed in 1998. The measure requires all insurance companies licensed in New York State to furnish the Superintendent with relevant data and information, including:
– The approximate number and total value of all unpaid insurance policies that have been issued to Holocaust victims;
– Any attempts that have been made by the insurer over the years to locate beneficiaries of policies issued from 1920 to 1945 that might pertain to a Holocaust victim; and
– The number of claims filed by Holocaust victims and whether or not payment was made on each of those claims.
The offers that are accepted from the $2.3 million allocation will be disbursed from the ICHEIC humanitarian fund and will mark the first time that ICHEIC is disbursing funds to Holocaust survivors or their heirs on behalf of European insurance companies that were either nationalized or liquidated after World War II and for which there are no present day successors.
ICHEIC anticipates that another, larger offer from its humanitarian fund will be made in the spring of 2005 to claimants seeking payment on similar policies.
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