Congress hears testimony on Holocaust claims

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony on a number of Holocaust compensation bills.

One bill considered in Wednesday’s testimony would make it easier for claimants to make their case against Holocaust-era insurers in U.S. courts and to press insurance companies to release lists of policies from that time. Another would allow lawsuits to go ahead against SNCF, the French national railroad, for its role in transporting Jews to death camps.  

The Obama administration, like its predecessors, opposes the insurance legislation, saying it amounts to Congress and the courts usurping executive branch primacy on conducting foreign policy.

The State Department on the eve of the hearing released a statement saying that the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, although it was formally shuttered in 2007, may still consider claims. 

All the witnesses invited to the hearing favored the proposed bills, although opponents — including some of the mainstream Jewish groups — were allowed to submit written testimony.

Testimony submitted collectively by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the World Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Restitution Organization argued against the insurance legislation, saying it would "raise false expectations for survivors," "compromise the ability of the United States to advocate for survivor benefits and issues" and "potentially hinder ongoing negotiations which have provided crucial funding for Holocaust survivors indeed."

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