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CONSUMERS: 1999 PRESS RELEASE

For Release: April 30, 1999
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566

CALIFORNIA INSURANCE COMMISSIONER CHUCK QUACKENBUSH LAUNCHES AGGRESSIVE PROGRAM TO SECURE RESTITUTION FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AND THEIR HEIRS

LOS ANGELES – California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush today unveiled an aggressive program designed to secure payment of insurance claims on behalf of Holocaust survivors and heirs residing in California.

Commissioner Quackenbush, who has been spearheading insurance-restitution efforts domestically and internationally for the past two years, was joined in a showing of statewide unity by California Governor Gray Davis, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, State Treasurer Phil Angelides, Senator Tom Hayden and Assemblyman Wally Knox. (Both Hayden and Knox authored legislation supporting the rights of Holocaust survivors and heirs to pursue payment of Holocaust-era insurance policies.) Two Holocaust survivors – Fred Jackson and Dr. Jack Brauns – armed with the actual insurance policies on which they have been wrongly denied for more than five decades, spoke of their personal frustrations and feelings of betrayal by the insurance companies.

Speaking at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Commissioner Quackenbush said "Insurance companies that sold policies prior to World War II are continuing to turn their backs on Holocaust victims and their families. For more than 50 years, these companies have demonstrated blatant bad faith. Such unconscionable injustice can no longer be tolerated. For the thousands of Californians who may be affected, I will use the full scope and authority of my office to ensure that these companies, at long last, live up to their contractual, as well as moral, obligations."

At issue are potentially billions of dollars in unpaid insurance claims owed to Holocaust survivors and their heirs. In California, the survivor population is placed at upwards of 20,000, the second largest concentration nationally. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, insurance was sold extensively throughout Europe. During this pre-war period, policyholders faithfully paid their premiums, having no reason to suspect that their hard-earned money would not only be stolen from them, but – in the cruelest of ironies – used to help fund Hitler’s campaign of genocide. After World War II, those who survived the Holocaust, as well as those who were heirs of survivors, logically tried to collect what was rightfully theirs. From the end of World War II to the present day, most of the insurance companies that issued such policies have refused – for a variety of baseless reasons – to honor these claims.

Vowing to "continue this fight until every legitimate claim is paid," Commissioner Quackenbush unveiled a multi-faceted program, which includes the following components:

  • Notices to Insurance Companies – Commissioner Quackenbush is sending letters to insurance companies that conduct business in California formally requesting that they inform the California Department of Insurance (CDI) whether they, or any of their present or former affiliated companies, issued policies in Europe prior to World War II, and whether they will participate in the International Commission for Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims.
  • California Holocaust Insurance Settlement Alliance – Commissioner Quackenbush has formed a large, diverse alliance that fully supports his efforts. The alliance will mount a massive outreach effort to help identify Holocaust survivors and heirs who might be entitled to insurance restitution. The 28-member alliance, which will continue to grow, currently includes:

-- The "1939" Club
-- American Congress of Holocaust Survivors
-- B’nai Brith of Los Angeles
-- California Association of Holocaust Child Survivors
-- Child Holocaust Survivors Group of Los Angeles
-- Council of Nazi Holocaust Survivors Organization
-- Descendants of Jewish Community of Augsburg Germany
-- Forgotten Holocaust Memorial
-- Five Million Forgotten – Non Jewish Victims of the Shoah
-- The LA Gay & Lesbian Center
-- International Association of Lesbian & Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors
-- Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay
-- Jewish Family Services of Santa Barbara
-- Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
-- Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose
-- Kinder Transport Association of Northern California
-- Lodzer Organization
-- Los Angeles Holocaust Monument Committee
-- Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
-- Machal West Organization
-- Mr. Sy Frumkin
-- Mr. Fred Diament
-- Mr. Jona Goldrich, Chairman & CEO, Goldrich & Kest
-- Mr. Fred Kort, Chairman & CEO, Imperial Toy Corporation
-- Mr. Nathan Shapell, Chairman & CEO, Shapell Industries, Inc.
-- Mr. Max Webb, President, Shapell & Webb
-- Second Generation
-- Simon Wiesenthal Center

  • Print Ad – A comprehensive advertising program, designed to increase awareness among Holocaust survivors and heirs that they may be entitled to insurance restitution, will begin the first week of May. Ads will appear in nearly 30 general-circulation newspapers and Jewish publications throughout the state.
  • Mailings to Survivors/Heirs – Commissioner Quackenbush is sending letters and restitution application forms to thousands of Holocaust survivors and heirs statewide. Multiple mailings will be distributed to ensure that the largest possible numbers of claimants are reached.
  • 888 Toll Free Number – The CDI will offer a toll free number – 888 CDI-INFO (888/234-4636) dedicated solely to potential Holocaust insurance claimants.
  • Web Site – An update of the CDI Website, to include claim form for survivors and heirs, history on Holocaust insurance restitution efforts, and information on companies that have failed to pay Holocaust insurance claims. To access, go to www.insurance.ca.gov; click on the red button labeled "What’s HOT" and click on "Holocaust Era Insurance Claims".
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