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Insurer To Pay Nazi Victims $100M

August 20, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali will pay $100 million to honor thousands of pre-World War II policies owned by people victimized by Nazis.

The agreement announced Wednesday still must be approved in federal court and by the company’s board of directors. It would settle a lawsuit filed by survivors against Generali and other insurers in Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland, claiming policyholders were never paid.

``It’s not a deal until we get the first transfer of the money,″ said Edward Fagan, an attorney for Holocaust survivors.

Guido Pastori, vice general director of Generali, said the agreement will be presented to the company’s board of directors on Aug. 28 for approval.

The agreement would affect tens of thousands of claimants worldwide, including about one-third of policies bought by Jews in Eastern Europe.

A Generali warehouse in Italy holds extensive records of policies it sold as Eastern Europe’s largest single seller of life and annuity policies in the prewar years.

The settlement sum is considerably higher than the $65 million that began negotiations in earnest this week and will have an effect on future settlements, Fagan said.

``This will be the benchmark for all issues to related to insurance claims,″ he said. ``They say the first one in gets the best deal. That is true of Generali. They have agreed to provide us with information and assistance so we can turn around and go after other insurers.″

Aside from the cash payment, which includes $15 million to be set aside for heirless claims, the agreement calls for the full disclosure Generali’s Nazi-era policy records, the creation of a process to evaluate such claims, and the establishment of a committee to consider each claim and decide the payout.

``There is no way we can get full justice ... but it is a measure of justice,″ said Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, a New York Republican who chairs the Senate Banking Committee.

Under the agreement, the payments to the neediest among America’s 100,000 Holocaust survivors _ Jewish and non-Jewish _ are expected to start later this year.

``This settlement will ensure substantial relief to survivors of the Holocaust and their heirs in the most timely manner possible,″ Pastori said.

Marta Cornell Drucker, the lead plaintiff in the suit who said her parents and 3-year-old sister were killed at Auschwitz, was pleased with the agreement but said it would not ease the loss.

``If they give me millions it wouldn’t help my pain,″ Mrs. Drucker, 70, said. ``I have nightmares still after so many years. I still scream at night.″

The settlement is separate from previous agreements.

Last week, Switzerland’s two largest commercial banks _ UBS AG and the Credit Suisse _ agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement after Holocaust survivors filed a class-action lawsuit seeking money in dormant war-era accounts.

But that settlement did not cover claims on war-era insurance policies held by a handful of companies in Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland.

The Zurich Insurance Co., which was named in the New York lawsuit, announced last week that it would work with an international commission to help process unpaid claims.

Earlier this week, advocates announced a $185 million Swiss humanitarian fund that would bring $31.4 million to survivors in the United States. The rest of the money is for survivors in other nations.

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