"lump sum" approach has been the defining characteristic
of the Holocaust restitution racket. Last year the Union Bank
of Switzerland (UBS AG) and Credit Suisse Group set up a $1.25
billion fund to settle the lawsuits pending against them and to
ward off sanctions. It was the Swiss settlement that blazed the
trail for all the subsequent class-action extortion suits. Lawyers
roamed across Europe and Israel signing up clients. Representatives
of the World Jewish Congressthe instigator of the suit against
the Swiss bankswould visit European companies, threaten
them with lawsuits and then suggest a nice round sum that would
buy them peace. In the meantime, unscrupulous politicians that
shamelessly pander to the Jewish vote would seek guidance from
the World Jewish Congress as to what sanctions to impose against
whom. New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi decided that he would
block Deutsche Banks takeover of Bankers Trust until it
had settled its class-action lawsuit in a satisfactory manner.
California passed a law enabling Holocaust survivors to file "slave
labor" lawsuits against European companies in state courts.
the Swiss case, the plaintiffs had demanded $20 billion. As it
turned out, however, the $1.25 billion was more than generous.
Jewish organizations had claimed that the Swiss had stolen Jewish
money, that billions lay in dormant accounts. The Volcker panel
recently reported that it had uncovered something like 54,000
accounts that may have belonged to Nazi victims. Their value today
is in the range of $173.5 to $263.1 million. Clearly, this figure
is much closer to the 1995 Swiss estimates of $30 million than
to the wild assertions of World Jewish Congress President Edgar
sooner did the Swiss hand over the $1.25 billion than fighting
broke out over the division of the booty. Who was a worthy beneficiary?
Who could prove the existence of a bank account from 60 years
ago? How much was such an account worth today? Who was the rightful
heir? Rather than try to grapple with these issues the court decided
that the safest course was simply to turn the money over to Jewish
organizations. "It is important that [the plaintiffs]
interests and those represented...by the World Jewish Congress,
the World Jewish Restitution Organization and the Jewish Agency
be synthesized in a dignified and orderly way...so that we dont
have an unseemly disagreement in court about the distribution,"
Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat declared fatuously.
Jewish charitable groups wanted to distribute the money to bolster
their influence in the Jewish world. The World Jewish Restitution
Organization, an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, claimed
that it has been empowered by the Israeli government to represent
Jewish interests on Holocaust-related matters. It proposed handing
over 80 percent of the funds to Holocaust survivors. Payment,
however, would not necessarily be monetary but in the form of
"charitable services." The remaining 20 percent would
go toward Holocaust-related educational programs. There was little
talk of turning money over to the heirs of victims who had Swiss
Weisshaus lost her family during the German occupation of Romania.
She was the first to sue the Swiss banks to recover family assets.
Today she complains that compensation payments are going to Jewish
organizations and not to individual survivors and their heirs:
"Survivors are sick, theyre losing hope, and these
people are taking the money. Its unbelievable... This is
our money. They have no right to it."
down insurance companies proved to be the most lucrative activity
of all. That is because they fall under the jurisdiction of 50
different state regulators. Therefore, 50 different sets of politicians
can try to get their hands on the money. California recently passed
a law requiring European insurance companies to provide a list
of policies written between 1920 and 1945. Failure to do so would
lead to revocation of their licenses to operate in California.
The insurance companies also had to prove that they had paid out
claims or had tried to locate the heirs of policyholders. If heirs
could not be located the unpaid policies were to be turned over
to a fund for Holocaust survivors. Florida has passed a similar
law. Since locating millions of policies from so many years ago
is an almost impossible undertaking, insurance companies realized
that their best option was simply to cough up the money. They
were soon "volunteering" to contribute to the appropriate
the prospect of harassment at the hands of state insurance regulators,
six major European insurance companies committed $90 million to
a "fund" for Holocaust survivors. Recently, the giant
Italian insurance company, Assicurazioni Generali, agreed to shell
out $100 million. The money would go to individual claimants and,
of course, to a Holocaust "fund."
make the looting of the insurance companies a little less haphazard,
in 1998 an international commission to be chaired by Lawrence
Eagleburger was set up. The commission comprises state insurance
regulators, the insurance companies and Jewish organizations.
The idea was to force the insurance companies to make a global
settlement. In return for cooperating with the commission, the
companies would be exempt from the penalties of state laws.
usual, greed got in the way. The state regulators were not about
to lose this cash cow. As the hapless Eizenstat was forced to
admit, while the U.S. government could promise the insurers freedom
from federal lawsuits, it could offer them no protection from
state insurance regulators.
Holocaust restitution racket is an unseemly brew of greed and
self-righteousness. One wonders how Americans would respond if
the Japanese were to try to extort money from U.S. companies that
were in some way involved with Hiroshima? What would happen if
the Germans decided to seek compensation from the United States
for the pain inflicted on the 15 million Germans who were expelledwith
the full knowledge and connivance of the U.S. governmentfrom
their ancient European homelands after 1945? There are few things
in the world more repellent than lucrative moralizing.