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Italian insurance firm agrees to settle Holocaust survivors’ suit

NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (JTA) — An Italian insurance firm has agreed to pay $100 million as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed last year by Holocaust survivors and the heirs of victims. The payout agreed to by Assicurazioni Generali is a first payment “toward moral and material restitution” by the company, according to officials at the World Jewish Congress who participated in the negotiations. Generali’s board of directors is expected to meet Aug. 28 to approve the agreement. The settlement reached Wednesday comes just one week after Switzerland’s two largest commercial banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion to settle all Holocaust-era claims against Swiss interests. But that deal did not include insurance firms. Generali’s agreement to pay survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims also comes as pressure was mounting from state insurance commissioners across the United States. Earlier this year, California had threatened to revoke Generali’s operating license if the Italian concern did not cooperate in resolving claims on unpaid policies taken out by Jews in the 1930s. Nearly one-fifth of Generali’s business in the United States is in California. Senate Banking Committee chairman Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), who participated in the negotiations, called the settlement with Generali a “breakthrough.” Generali is the first European insurance agency to reach an agreement to settle with the heirs of Holocaust victims. Negotiators hope that the agreement will prompt other European insurance agencies to come forward to rectify their wartime accounts with victims of the Holocaust. Under the agreement, Generali will cooperate with a commission set up together with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in the United States. The commission will examine the company’s archives, which could lead to Generali paying additional monies. Last January, word spread that the company had nearly complete records of its prewar policies in a warehouse in Trieste. A CD-ROM it had created with the names of 384,000 policy holders closely matched lists of Holocaust victims compiled from Nazi archives.

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