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Holocaust commission to track down rightful beneficiaries

An international commission attempting to find the rightful owners of unpaid insurance policies dating from 1920-45, has launched a worldwide information campaign. Two Swiss companies are represented on the commission.

This content was published on February 15, 2000 - 21:59

An international commission attempting to find the rightful owners of unpaid insurance policies dating from 1920-45, has launched a worldwide information campaign. Two Swiss companies are represented on the commission.

Over the next four months, the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) will run a large-scale campaign in Israel and about 70 countries in the Americas, Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The project was announced in Washington by the commission's president, the former United States secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger.

"It is our direct responsibility to ensure that victims of the Holocaust receive the insurance claims they are entitled to," Eagleburger said.

The campaign will primarily take the form of full-page advertisements in newspapers in the countries concerned. People who feel they have a claim will be able to call a free phone number to set the investigation process in motion.

The decision to pay out on a claim will be made by the company that originally contracted the policy, under the regulations set out by the commission. However that decision can be appealed against and then go to arbitration.

As a result of the Second World War, many insurance policies were lost, destroyed or confiscated and remain unpaid. The ICHEIC was created in 1998 with the task of resolving unsettled claims speedily and fairly. It includes the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in the US, European regulators, representatives of Jewish organisations and the state of Israel, as well as insurance companies.

The five companies represented on the commission are the Swiss groups, Zurich and Winterthur, and the European insurers, Allianz, Generali and Axa.

The commission is currently in talks with other insurance groups such as Münchner Rück and Gerling. The Dutch insurance group, Aegon, is expected to join the commission within the next few weeks.

The ICHEIC's chief of staff, Neil Sher, said the commission would publish a list of unclaimed insurance policies on its Internet site within the next few weeks. So far around 10,000 names are expected to be published, but Sher says the list is not definitive.

By Tom O'Brien

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