Setting the Example

moneyDegussa says faces second Holocaust lawsuit in US
Reuters (1999)

German chemical and metals group Degussa AG said on Monday that it was the subject of a second U.S. class action lawsuit relating to its activities during the Second World War. Degussa, which faces a separate lawsuit filed by four Holocaust victims in August, said the case was filed in U.S. Federal Court in New Jersey in December by attorney Melvynn Weiss.

A spokeswoman said the plaintiffs had made “no concrete demands.” She said Degussa expected the U.S. court to combine the two cases. “That is the normal practice in these situations,” she said.

In a speech delivered at Degussa’s annual shareholders meeting on Monday, chief executive Uwe-Ernst Bufe said the new case dealt with “similar” issues as the first. “The charges against Degussa mainly concern precious metals belonging to Jews that were smelted at the behest of the state,” Bufe said in the speech.

The lawsuit filed in August alleges that Degussa profited from gold and other precious metals taken from Nazi victims and asks for unspecified damages. At an extraordinary meeting in December Bufe said the Degussa’s lawyers had determined the case against it was “without substance.”

Degussa is one of several companies including Siemens AG and DaimlerChrysler taking part in discussions with the German government over how to reach a general settlement to the myriad class action suits they face in the U.S.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


Insurance Cos. May Have Robbed Jews
By Rayner Pike (1998)

NEW YORK (AP) — Some European insurance companies were ahead of the Nazi government in robbing Jews of benefits they were entitled to, insurance researchers told a state Senate committee Monday.

After Kristallnacht in November 1938, the Nazis issued an order that in effect voided property damage insurance of Jewish policyholders. But, according to newly discovered documents, insurance companies soon began taking the initiative and canceling other types of policies — including life, health and pensions — held by Jews.

“Insurers appeared to be the creators of Nazi policy, not the victims,” said Douglas Talley, vice president of Risk International, a Houston-based claims recovery service. Talley said German records shipped to Moscow after World War II disclosed “very virulent anti-Semitic attitudes in insurance companies.”

His testimony came at a hearing by the state Senate Insurance Committee chairman, Republican Sen. Guy Velella, on a bill to punish insurance companies that stonewall claims of Holocaust victims or heirs.

New York spokesmen for some European insurers, including Allianz and the AXA group, told Velella that legislation was not needed because the companies would cooperate. “We are committed to expeditious justice, mindful of the advanced age of claimants,” said Peter Lefkin, a Firemen’s Fund vice president speaking in behalf of Allianz.

Jews lost from $23 billion to $32 billion during the Nazi era — worth about $250 billion today — according to testimony Monday by Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress. Steinberg said estimates show that the biggest losses were from insurance that never was paid and real estate that was lost.

Margaret Zentner, 76, a German-born survivor of the Auschwitz death camp who now lives in New York, testified that she was unable to collect on a so-called dowry policy her father bought from Allianz in 1929. The policy was to pay her 5,000 marks on the day of her marriage or at age 21. “That was a lot of money — an automobile at that time didn’t even cost 1,000 marks,” she said.

When she wrote to Allianz after the war, “They said the policy had been paid to the SS (Hitler’s elite guard) and they didn’t owe me anything.”

Mrs. Genter is part of a class action lawsuit accusing European insurers of refusing to honor policies of Nazi victims. “The Nazis systematically took over insurance payouts,” said Terrell Hunt, president of Risk International. “It was the scheme of the Nazis not only to murder the Jews, but to seize the insurance assets of the murdered Jews to help fund the murder of more Jews.”

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Holocaust Heir Can Sue for Insurance
The Associated Press (1999)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The heir of a Holocaust victim can sue a European insurance company in California for not honoring a life insurance policy at the end of World War II, a judge ruled.

The decision was a major step in Adolf Stern’s attempt to collect from policies bought in 1929 by his brother, Moshe “Mor” Stern, who was killed in a Nazi death camp. Adolf Stern and his family have tried to collect at least a dozen times since 1945.

Superior Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled Monday that the company, Assicurazioni Generali, had adequate business ties to California to justify a lawsuit in the state. The ruling could affect more than 6,000 Nazi Holocaust survivors who live in California, according to court records.

Generali lawyers had argued that the lawsuit should be filed in the Czech Republic, because the policy had been bought in Prague. But the judge noted that the company has owned a California subsidiary, filed lawsuits here and sold $27 million in insurance here in 1997.

The company said it would appeal the ruling, saying the claims were denied because the postwar communist government of Czechoslovakia seized all the company’s assets.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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