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Compensation of Insurance Policies of Holocaust Victims

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© Getty Images / Oleksandra Korobova

German insurance companies and the GDV have participated in conjunction with the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future in a process initiated by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) in compensating life and non-life insurance policies of victims of the Holocaust on the basis of a "Trilateral Agreement" concluded on 16th October 2002. In this context, the German insurance companies had raised more than 281 million euro through the “German Economy Foundation Initiative” (“Stiftungsinitiative der Deutschen Wirtschaft”) that were transferred to and distributed by ICHEIC after the "Trilateral Agreement"  was signed. Of this sum, 102 million euro were distributed as compensation for insurance policies that had been issued by German companies domestically and abroad while the remaining 179 million euro were used for general humanitarian purposes.

The compensation of insurance policies issued by German companies had already started after World War II based on restitution programs established by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France in their respective zones of occupation and was continued and extended after 1952 by the Federal Republic of Germany for more than 30 years in a number of compensation and restitution laws (Federal Compensation Law [BEG], Federal Restitution Law [BRüG], Equalization of Burdens Law [LAG], Hague Protocol No 2 on the Luxembourg Agreement with Israel).

An additional program specifically aimed at compensating insurance policies of victims of the Holocaust was introduced in 1998 under the aegis of ICHEIC under an international agreement  concluded among the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States of America, a number of eastern European states, US plaintiff attorneys, as well as the State of Israel and Jewish organizations. This process was designed to settle the issue for good and was completed in 2007. At the final meeting, ICHEIC announced that more than 306 million US dollars were distributed as compensation for insurance policies and general humanitarian purposes worldwide.

GDV member companies that participated in the ICHEIC process checked, at their own expense, a total of 19,421 claims on German companies that ICHEIC had received for them beginning in 1998. This entailed checking 86,247 names of individuals to see if any previously unpaid or confiscated and not otherwise compensated insurance policies were eligible for compensation. Based on the Relaxed Standards of Proof set under the "Trilateral Agreement" , German companies were able to identify 7,870 legitimate claims. Compensation to the amount of 102.16 million US dollars was paid out of the ICHEIC administered funds for 11,399 policies to 8,664 beneficiaries.

These results were made possible, inter alia, by the fact that German insurance companies had made available a list of insurance portfolios via the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht [BaFin]) for matching within the ICHEIC process. Although the compensation process has been closed and no new claims may be filed, the list of names continues to be accessible as a historical resource on the website of Yad Vashem.

The ICHEIC compensation process was officially concluded in March 2007, and ICHEIC does not accept any new compensation inquiries.

On a voluntary basis German insurance companies have agreed to continue to check inquiries concerning former insurance policies of victims of the Holocaust even after the official compensation process has been completed, applying Relaxed Standards of Proof, and to honor legitimate claims.

This review will continue to include all inquiries that either name a specific German insurance company, regardless of where in the world the policy was issued, or that otherwise refer to Germany in the borders of 1937 as the place of issue, in case that no company could be named in the inquiry. If no company could be named, the GDV will forward the inquiry to all potential member companies who had been in business before 1945. The companies will research in internal and external archives to determine whether an insurance policy has existed. In case the existence of a policy has been established based on relaxed standards of proof, the company will check if the policy has indeed remained unpaid and uncompensated throughout the various previous compensation processes. The company will inform the inquirer regarding the outcome of its review. In case a policy of a member company has remained unpaid and uncompensated, the responsible company will honor a legitimate claim.

View current statistics of inquiries received by German companies since the conclusion of the ICHEIC compensation process in March 2007