Florida Sen. Nelson avoids Holocaust survivors' protest, files bill

The Miami HeraldMarch 3, 2011 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who faced a protest planned by Holocaust survivors at his Miami Beach fundraiser Friday with President Barack Obama, has filed legislation that would give hundreds of victims the right to sue European companies for millions of dollars in unpaid life insurance claims.

The Florida Democrat had been working on the legislation sought by a national Holocaust survivors’ group since early February. But a sense of urgency kicked in to file it Wednesday amid the glare of publicity about the upcoming demonstration at the Fontainebleau Hotel fundraiser.

“People who are wronged are entitled to seek justice,” Nelson said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

Members of the Miami-based Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation-USA, which had been heavily lobbying the senator, said they were grateful for Nelson’s actions “to restore our rights as American citizens.”

“We look forward to working with him as he brings other senators on board, and hope he will tell President Obama personally how important it is to Holocaust Survivors that the insurance companies be held fully accountable,” the foundation said in a statement.

“It is now our expectation to work with Congress and the White House to restore our rights and address the survivors’ desperate needs that have been ignored for so long.”

A group of South Florida survivors said Nelson promised them in his Washington office three years ago that he would file legislation to allow them to sue European companies that sold their families life insurance policies before World War II. During the 2008 presidential campaign, they said, Obama and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden gave their word of support, too.

On Monday, they accused Nelson and Obama of going back on their word, saying they’re siding with giant insurance companies over Holocaust victims. Meanwhile, Nelson has filed his legislation, but the White House has not responded to the foundation’s recent letter seeking the president’s support.

David Schaecter, 82, of Miami, who lost his family and countless other relatives in Nazi concentration camps, brought some of the foundation’s members together at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach on Monday to raise awareness about their struggle to win the right to sue European insurers, such as Allianz AG, which recently reported annual operating profits of $8 billion.

Last month, the survivors’ group held a protest at a Boca Raton professional golf tournament sponsored by Allianz, which garnered international media attention.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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