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Italian Insurance Company Pays Heirs of Policy Holders

Italy’s largest insurance company has begun compensating the heirs of policyholders who perished in the Holocaust.

Some 1,551 applicants have already filed for compensation from the $12 million Israel-based fund established by Assicurazioni Generali, which is also making payments to needy survivors and organizations dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust.

Dov Levin, a retired Israeli judge who chairs the fund, said Monday that the moneys in the fund may not be sufficient for all applicants. Just the same, he appealed to potential claimants around the world to come forward and submit applications.

“We may not have reached everyone who has an interest and a right to submit a claim,” said Levin. “We are seeking ways to make this fund known in a much broader way.”

Those seeking additional information can write to: The Generali Fund; P.O. Box 36311; Jerusalem, Israel 91360.

About 70 percent of those who have made claims as Generali policyholders or their heirs were Israelis. The remaining applicants came from North and South America, Australia and several other countries.

“Dealing with this issue is extremely painful,” said Levin. “But at least we feel like we are doing some justice.”

In December, the Generali Fund made its first payments of between $17,000 and $30,000 in total to four applicants. Another 41 applicants have had their requests approved.

The total amount to be distributed to this group alone could reach “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to the fund’s directors.

Generali agreed to create the fund in 1997, after information surfaced about a warehouse in Trieste, Italy, in which the company stored hundreds of thousands of insurance policies that have remained unclaimed since the Holocaust era.

Knesset members subsequently threatened to block the firm’s acquisition of Migdal, a large Israeli insurance group, if company executives did not agree to compensate policyholders.

Along with several other European insurers, Generali was targeted last year by a task force of U.S. insurance commissioners investigating unpaid prewar policies.

In a series of hearings hosted by the commissioners last year, numerous witnesses charged that the European firms have been stalling for 50 years to avoid payment on policies taken out by Jews in prewar years.

The commissioners believe that Generali, one of the largest insurers of Jews in prewar Eastern Europe, could be liable for as much as $1 billion.

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