South Florida

Holocaust survivors target a German golf sponsor over insurance billions

Protesters hold signs Sunday at the Allianz PGA Golf Championship at Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton to demonstrate against the German tournament sponsor for not fully paying the life insurance policies of Holocaust victims.
Protesters hold signs Sunday at the Allianz PGA Golf Championship at Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton to demonstrate against the German tournament sponsor for not fully paying the life insurance policies of Holocaust victims.

South Florida's population of Holocaust survivors may be dwindling, but their spirit lived on Sunday in a protest aimed at a PGA golf tournament sponsored by the German conglomerate, Allianz AG, that they say owes $2.5 billion in life insurance policies paid off by the Jewish victims of Nazi death camps before World War II.

More than 100 protesters, including relatives and supporters, held up signs and chanted “Survivors Can't Wait” outside the Allianz PGA Golf Championship at the Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton to call attention to demands for the policy payments to the Holocaust survivors. The demonstration marked the seventh year that they gathered in support of South Florida-based Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, which has been pressuring Congress for years to adopt a law that would allow the survivors and their relatives to pursue claims against Allianz in U.S. courts.

Among the protesters was the family of Jack Rubin, an Auschwitz survivor from Delray Beach who died last year after leading the group's cause and testifying several times before Congress.

“My grandfather was an amazing man who left us a legacy of standing up for what's right,” said Rubin's grand daughter, Cara, a freshman at Florida Atlantic University. “Joining the protest was a way for me to keep his fighting spirit alive.”

For Sunday's protest, the group had hoped to hire an airplane to fly a banner with the message, “Allianz Owes Holocaust Survivors $2.5 Billion Dollars” — as it did for last year's PGA tournament. But the group was unable to do it again because the Federal Aviation Administration banned all general flights over Palm Beach County because of President Donald Trump's stay in his home at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, according to Miami attorney Samuel Dubbin, who represents the Holocaust Survivors Foundation.

Dubbin has been lobbying the Florida congressional delegation, including the state's two U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, as well as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami. After years of unsuccessful efforts, they recently backed legislation allowing Holocaust survivors and their relatives to sue the giant German company Allianz for past life insurance benefits. Over the past decade, the proposal has failed to gain the support of Congress and past presidents.

David Schaecter, president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, has been on the front lines of the political fight.

“There is a strong, bipartisan group of committed members of Congress and the Senate willing to ensure that the survivors and our families receive justice and dignity in our last years,” said Schaecter, an Auschwitz survivor who lost his family and other relatives in Nazi concentration camps. “We hope and pray that President Trump will see us and hear us, and do everything in his power to restore our rights.”

The federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have rejected the survivors’ bids to sue the insurers, backing up the Obama administration, Justice Department and foreign companies that say an international Holocaust claims commission formed in 1998 was the only way to resolve survivors’ insurance policy disputes.

Allianz, which has more than 10,000 employees in the United States, has acknowledged the survivors' profound suffering. The company has openly admitted its collaboration with the Nazis, noting a “groundbreaking” book was published in 2001 on its dark history. Among the disclosures: Allianz sold hundreds of thousands of life insurance policies to Jews during the 1930s and '40s, while insuring the death camps during World War II. The company also sent money to the Nazis instead of rightful Jewish beneficiaries.

“While we cannot undo any aspect of our company's history, we can learn from it and work to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust are never again repeated,” Allianz said in a statement in 2012.

But the German insurer said it has met its obligation to the vast majority of Holocaust survivors with unpaid policies through the International Commission on Holocaust Insurance Claims. Dubbin, the attorney for the Holocaust survivors, said their families don’t recognize that commission’s settlement because it accounted for only a “fraction” of what Allianz owes them in unpaid life insurance benefits.