WASHINGTON (JTA) — A group of Holocaust survivors blasted the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous for honoring an executive of an insurance company that had denied claims to families of Holocaust victims.
The Holocaust Survivors Foundation, the umbrella body for a number of U.S. survivors groups, last week wrote to JFR, saying that its decision to honor Peter Lefkin, a senior vice president at Allianz North America, would become a “permanent blot” on the group.
In its letter, HSF noted the World War II role of Allianz in insuring Nazi enterprises and its postwar failure to honor insurance claims of Jews who died in the Holocaust, a figure that the Holocaust Survivors Foundation says amounts to over $2.5 billion today.
“We have admired the work of the JFR in honoring the work of the righteous gentiles who risked their lives and families to assist Jews during the Holocaust,” the letter says. “It would be a shame, and a permanent blot on the organization’s excellent work, if the JFR were to now dishonor the Jewish victims of the Holocaust by accepting money from Allianz.”
Allianz has said that it has honored claims through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims process, through which it disbursed more than $300 million.
HSF, backed by a number of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, say those payouts were inadequate and want survivors to be able to challenge insurers like Allianz in the courts.
A number of Jewish groups back legislation that would facilitate court challenges, while others say the ICHEIC process should end claims.
In its reply, JFR said that its board had considered Allianz’s past in its decision to honor Lefkin at its Dec. 3 annual dinner.
“While we are sensitive to the feelings expressed by some Holocaust survivors and their families, Allianz never killed anyone and they participated fully in the settlement reached with leading European insurance companies that paid millions of dollars to survivors,” said the letter in reply to the one sent by HSF.
“Allianz of America is not the same company that sold policies to Jews in Germany and other European countries overrun by Nazis, it is a different company owned by different shareholders and run by a new generation of executives,” it said.