In addition to operating government-funded compensation programs for decades, Germany signed an Executive Agreement with the United States in 2000 that was meant to fully address and finally resolve all compensation issues for Nazi-regime victims. German insurance companies participated in this effort by providing more than 281 million euros to the funding of the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft, or EVZ) in Germany and by participating in the global ICHEIC process.
Legal Peace due to Executive Agreement
The fall of the Iron Curtain, the reunification of Germany, and the end of communism propelled a new debate regarding the compensation of Holocaust victims from Central and Eastern Europe in particular. Initially this discussion primarily focused on compensation for forced laborers and Swiss bank accounts. Subsequently it was expanded to encompass once again the issue of Jewish policyholders’ unpaid or confiscated insurance policies. To address all of these concerns, the United States and Germany signed a comprehensive Executive Agreement in the year 2000 that was meant to serve as the definitive settlement for Holocaust victims. It established legal peace for all German companies regarding from all future Holocaust-era claims in the United States and committed the newly created Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future” (i.e. “Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft, or EVZ) to providing additional compensation for Jewish victims of the Holocaust and their heirs in the amount of 5 billion euros.
The Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future” (“Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft”, or EVZ)
One commitment stipulated in the Executive Agreement between the United States and Germany was the creation of the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future” (“Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft”, or EVZ) in Germany. The Foundation EVZ’s compensation fund of 5.1 billion euros was established in equal share by the German government and the private sector. The German insurance industry contributed more than 281 million euros. The primary purpose of the Foundation EVZ was to provide compensation for forced labor under the Nazis, confiscated bank accounts held by Jewish citizens, and unpaid and previously uncompensated insurance policies held by Jewish policyholders. The EVZ compensation program was concluded in 2007 with the consent of the governments of the U.S. and Israel, and numerous Jewish organizations. The Foundation EVZ continues to support projects that promote human rights and international understanding and to commemorate victims of Nazi injustice with a specially designated funding stream.
ICHEIC and Insurance Policies
The ICHEIC (International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims) was established in 1998 by U.S. insurance regulators, the State of Israel, Jewish organizations, and European insurance companies. Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger served as the commission’s chairman. The ICHEIC established a global process for identifying and compensating unpaid and previously uncompensated insurance policies held by victims of the Holocaust. In 2002, the ICHEIC, the German Foundation EVZ, and the GDV signed a “Trilateral Agreement” under which they cooperated in the compensation of any insurance policies held by Jewish policyholders in Germany that had not already been addressed by previous government-funded compensation programs. The Trilateral Agreement contained specific stipulations regarding the claims-handling process for participating insurance companies; succession guidelines; standards of proof; a two-layer (peer-)review audit process for insurance companies conducted by the German state regulator (BaFin) and Jewish observers; the publication of the names of potential former policyholders; a process for matching public and company archives; and a detailed appeals process with independent arbiters in London to verify the companies’ decisions on submitted claims. When the ICHEIC concluded in 2007, German companies had contributed more than 281 million euros through the framework provided by the ICHEIC and the Foundation EVZ. Worldwide, the ICHEIC process distributed 306 million dollars to Holocaust survivors and their heirs for unpaid and previously uncompensated insurance policies.
The total number of insurance policies held by Jewish policyholders in Germany cannot be ascertained because corporate records – insofar as they still exist beyond wartime destruction and statutory retention periods – generally do not identify a policyholder’s religion.