Groups hit on Holocaust insurance bill

The co-sponsor of a Holocaust insurance bill slammed Jewish organizational leaders for opposing the measure.

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) in impassioned remarks Thursday before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee asked how American Jewish leaders could sleep at night knowing they are preventing Holocaust survivors from pursuing claims against European insurers in U.S. courts.

At issue before the committee Thursday was the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act, a bill co-sponsored by Wexler and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) that would require insurance companies to provide names of Holocaust-era insurance policies to a federal registry administered by the Department of Commerce. The bill also would create a cause of action opening the door to lawsuits against insurance companies to proceed in U.S. courts.

Four Jewish organizations – the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith International and the World Jewish Congress – wrote to the committee chairman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), expressing concern with the bill.

The bill also is opposed by the State Department, the Claims Conference and the American Gathering of American Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

Opponents of the legislation argue that restitution talks, some of which are still under way, would be undermined if European interlocutors do not trust that settlements will grant them legal peace.

The proposed legislation is viewed as a response to the perceived failure of the International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims, which was established to process insurance claims by Holocaust survivors. ICHEIC defenders counter that the commission fared far better than survivors, many of whom lack documentation to back up their claims, would have in court.

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