Holocaust survivor Fred Taucher believes insurance companies that did business in Europe during World War II are procrastinating until claimants die off so they wonâ€™t have to pay their claims.
Taucher was the only insurance claimant to testify at Washington State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Sennâ€™s hearing with European insurance companies on Nov. 20.
Senn held the hearing to find out the progress of the companies in the international effort to recover insurance benefits denied to Holocaust victims and their heirs at the end of World War II. The insurance companies invited to the hearing included Allianz AG (Germany), Axa (France), Assicurazioni Generali (Italy), Zurich (Switzerland) and Winterthur (Switzerland). Representatives of the companies were asked by letter to testify about the status of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) process in general as well as their companyâ€™s specific experience to date.
Senn told the audience of about 20 that she would try to intersperse the insurers with the other audience members; however as the questioning with the companies ran long, the number of claimants in the room shrank. Claimant Martin Birn, who signed up to testify, left before the end of the hearing without speaking.
Taucher, who has attended about six of the hearings, said he has seen the claimantsâ€™ attendance drop. Taucher said that he is fortunate enough to be younger than a lot of the other claimants, who are starting to give up on the insurance, due to their old age.
At the hearing, Commissioner Senn introduced the Generali representatives to Francis Mayor, whose father had a Generali policy from Austria that was confirmed by Generali in 1998. Marco Schnabl, a representative of Generali, said he would follow up. Mayor responded, “If my luck persists, Iâ€™ll live another 10 years, so donâ€™t rush.”
Taucher said some of the claimants figure, “Whatâ€™s the use?” He said they mustnâ€™t give up because if they do, the insurance companies win. He said they should continue to work with the insurance commissioner. “Why make it easier on insurance companies?” he asked.
“Iâ€™m going to fight â€™till the day I die if I have to,” said Taucher. And if he doesnâ€™t receive the insurance money before he dies, he said his daughter “will definitely pursue.” Taucher said these hearings gave him the drive he needed to pursue his fatherâ€™s insurance.
“I lived in Berlin all through the war, though I was only 6 years old when Kristallnacht happened,” said Taucher. “I do remember my father telling my mother not to worry about all the damage, and the destruction that took place, that he had insurance that would take care of it.”
Taucher said, as he was young at that time, he was unsure of how much insurance his father had. “Neither my brother or I, who are the only survivors in my family, have ever received one penny,” he said.
Taucher said he doesnâ€™t expect to see much of the insurance, if any, during his lifetime, but he is mainly doing it for the principle of it. “Youâ€™ve got to make a wrong right,” he said.
He and his brother received rejection letters from the insurance companies, with little explanation for denying their claims. Taucher said that in the first letter they received, even their name had been misspelled. Finding no use in writing the insurance companies, he decided to do things in person.
Taucher visited Berlin last April and spent about four days trying to research insurance records as well as other information he didnâ€™t have. Despite the many run-arounds, toward the end of his visit, he met a woman who could help him. She told him where he could find archives of insurance records from 1928â€“1941, in KÃ¶ln, Germany. He said if it hadnâ€™t been for her fondness of Seattle he wouldnâ€™t have made any progress.
On his trip, he also discovered information he was unaware of. Through a record archival center in Pottsdam, Germany, he learned that he was arrested on April 15, 1945 and was shipped to Dachau two days later.
“I do know I escaped from Dachau, but I didnâ€™t know what day, and Iâ€™ve turned up missing according to the records from the German archives on April 20,” said Taucher. “They were going to send me more information; however, sometime in the latter part of May, I received a letter from that archival center, the same center that gave me the computer printout, that there is no information on me or my family. And so, needless to say, I donâ€™t have any further information.”
Taucher plans to search for his familyâ€™s insurance records at the archives in KÃ¶ln when he returns to Germany this spring.
“Iâ€™m not a quitter,” said Taucher. “I wonâ€™t give up. I havenâ€™t gotten where I am today by quitting.” Taucher is currently the owner of Corporate Computer, Inc., the second oldest privately-owned computer company in Seattle.
As of the November hearing, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner had submitted more than 400 claims from Washington state survivors and from heirs of Holocaust victims to the ICHEIC. None of the claims had been resolved as yet, despite the 90-day response time indicated in the ICHEIC process guidelines. One claim had been denied. And one claim submitted before the new process was instituted was paid by an insurance company in April. The claimant, Marie “Mizzi” Fink, thanked Deborah Sennâ€™s office for their help in pursuing the matter.
During the November hearing, the insurance companies were asked about their procedures in processing claims, as well as how many inquiries they had received. Senn presented a rejection letter a claimant received from Generali that lacked specific reasons for why the claimant was denied.
Washingtonâ€™s Holocaust victims Insurance Relief Act of 1999 requires insurers to provide lists of all policyholders during the Holocaust era in Europe. Billions of dollarsâ€™ worth of insurance benefits were illegally denied to victims of the Holocaust and their heirs, including several hundred Washington state residents. Any Washington state resident who wishes to inquire about filing a Holocaust-related claim can contact Commissioner Sennâ€™s Holocaust Survivors Assistance Office toll-free at 1-888-606-9622 or visit www.insurance.wa.gov for complete notes from the Nov. 20 hearing and other information.