This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
Holocaust survivors have not fared well over the past 11 years in their efforts to get European companies to compensate them for unpaid life-insurance policies bought before World War II. The survivors, whose numbers are diminishing, have had setbacks in the courts, at the White House and in Congress. Now, with a new congressional majority and a new team in the White House committed to change, there is hope that justice finally will prevail. The survivors' cause is more than just – it is a grievous wrong that must be righted.
Survivors expected that the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, which was created in 1998, would process and fairly resolve the insurance claims. However, when the commission concluded its work in 2007, it had paid out less than 3 percent of the estimated $18 billion owed to victims and their families. That was acceptable to some, but not all, of the survivors. Most offensive is that the settlement, metaphorically, sweeps so much more under the rug.
The settlement has been upheld by the courts, including the Supreme Court, and strongly defended by the Bush administration. But those outcomes must not be allowed to stand. Some insurers are believed to have double-crossed their Jewish clients by turning their names or addresses over to Nazi authorities, knowing full well the consequences – and profiting from the unpaid claims. It would be criminal not to identify any such perpetrators and assess penalties for their ill-gotten gains.
In 2000, a national coalition of survivor leaders founded the Holocaust Survivors Foundation, USA, Inc. to represent the interests of disaffected survivors. In a recent letter to President Barack Obama, HSF members wrote: "Only a fraction of the funds actually looted was recovered by individual owners or heirs, and only a small portion of funds paid out for 'humanitarian purposes' have trickled down to meet the pressing needs of living Holocaust survivors."
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