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U.S. Congresswoman Helps Holocaust Survivors Seek Justice

A decade after the Holocaust, a U.S. Congresswoman has introduced a bill that would enable Holocaust survivors to sue insurance companies.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/21/2012, 12:09 AM

Holocaust survivors
Holocaust survivors
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Decades after the Holocaust, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 18th congressional district has introduced and won committee passage of a bill, the first of its kind, that would enable American Holocaust survivors to sue international insurance companies from whom Jewish families bought life and property insurance in the years leading up to the Holocaust.

“This is the US government stating facts that are not true,” the congresswoman told Michele Gillen of CBS news. “This is an injustice right in front of our eyes.”

“These people were not paid and it’s all one big con,” Ros-Lehtinen asserted.  The con, she said, protects foreign insurance companies, contaminates history and bears the fingerprints of the U.S. government.

“These insurance companies were paid handsomely,” she said. “They became rich through the suffering of others. So shame on them. They do have blood on their hands.”

The congresswoman claims that if the industry were held responsible it would owe survivors and their heirs what some have estimated to be 20 billion dollars.

“Some of these European insurance companies that are doing business in the US they are telling holocaust survivors, ‘oh, no we paid this out already.’ And when did you pay this out? ‘Oh, It was probably on the way to Treblinka.’ On their way to all these horrible concentration camps? Hogwash. Nobody believes that,” she said.

Survivors, however, are being told they can’t sue due to it interfering with the foreign policy interests of the US.

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) has, in the past, negotiated settlements with 75 foreign insurance companies. The insurance company claims that their negotiations resulted in repayment of 300 million dollars, but critics say that is merely 3 percent of what is owed to Holocaust survivors.

“I’ve never heard of people having no right to sue. What is that? That’s just not the American Way,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

“Today the US government is engineering a cover-up of the insurance companies’ behavior and blocking Holocaust survivors from going to court to recover their family legacies,” said attorney Sam Dubbin, who represents survivors.

“The decisions giving the insurance companies immunity here were never agreed to, were not what the law intends and yet they went ahead and doubled down and informed the court that they believed that the litigation by the survivors was against American foreign policy,” Dubbin added.

“Justice has not been served. Justice has been denied to Holocaust victims and before they pass away and before we don’t have this legacy anymore, let’s do right by them,” Ros-Lehtinen asserted. “Let’s wipe the slate clean, let’s start it again, and let’s do this in the right way so that they have their day in court.”