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Firm in Italy Establishes Fund to Honor Holocaust Survivors

An Italian insurance company will establish a $12 million fund to honor its policy holders who were murdered by the Nazis, but it will not pay out money to individual survivors.

The fund set up by Assicurazioni Generali will support cultural and social initiatives and institutions. It will also establish an information center that will furnish heirs of Holocaust victims who may have held pre-war policies with whatever documentation is available.

In a statement released Tuesday, however, the Trieste-based firm reiterated its position that it had no obligation to pay out individual policies because its Eastern European operations, including responsibility for payments, were taken over by post-World War II Communist governments.

It is not known how many Holocaust victims held Generali policies. The company, which was founded by Venetian Jews in 1830, had extensive operations throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Generali recently has been involved in negotiations that led to its investment in an Israeli insurance company, Migdal. The statement Tuesday linked the decision to set up the new fund to the Migdal deal.

During its negotiations with Migdal, Generali had come under sharp criticism in Israel and from some Jewish groups about its stance on its insurance policies held by Holocaust victims who lived in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere.

Some Israeli legislators said they would call for a boycott of the company and its Israeli division if it refused to pay the families of policyholders who were victims of the Holocaust.

Generali President Antonine Bernheim is slated to visit Israel in July.

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