The Jets and Giants and Nazi collaborators

Will a company with a Nazi past and a history of cooperating with Hitler win the naming rights for the new NFL stadium for the Giants and Jets?

More than six decades ago, Allianz, a Munich-based insurer and financial services company, insured facilities and personnel at concentration camps like Auschwitz and Dachau, had a chief executive who wore an SS uniform and served as Hitler’s economics minister, and refused to pay the life insurance policies of Jews, instead sending Jewish beneficiaries’ cash to Nazis.

Now Allianz wants its name atop the football stadium representing the hometown teams of the most Jewish city in America, and the world.

So far, no decision has been made, according to a report on the subject in Wednesday’s New York Times. The Giants and Jets have hired a crisis management firm to deal with possible problems arising from the sale of the stadium’s naming rights, which reportedly will go for $20 million to $30 million per year. Here’s what Richard Sandomir writes in the Times:

A deal with Allianz would not be easy to sell publicly, like Citigroup’s with the Mets. The possibility of an Allianz Stadium will make some people cringe, especially in a market that is home to many Jewish people, and in which the Tisch family, which owns half of the Giants, has supported many Jewish causes.

“There must be sensitivity to the psychological impact this would have,” said Elan Steinberg, a vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. “Survivors are still alive. It would not be appropriate to affix the Allianz name to a stadium name in an area where a lot of survivors still living.”

…Even the best arguments in Allianz’s favor are imperfect. The teams can say that Allianz has done much to atone for its role before and during the war, but no amount of apologies or restitution to victims and survivors can make full amends for its past.

The teams can say Allianz participated in two major efforts that began in the 1990s to compensate slave and forced laborers as well as insurance policy holders — but only after pressure from the American government, state insurance regulators and Jewish groups, and class-action suits filed in federal court.

The teams refused to speak about Allianz, which has United States subsidiaries like Fireman’s Fund Insurance and Oppenheimer Capital, because a deal is not done. And Allianz refused to discuss the naming-rights negotiations.

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