In Europe, as the Nazis rose to power, many Jews tried to protect themselves and their families financially by purchasing life insurance policies, annuities, even dowry policies. For decades after World War II, getting payment on those policies — particularly difficult when survivors and heirs had been stripped of all their possessions, including family records — became part of the larger challenge of how to compensate those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Two bills in Congress would help families recover money long denied them. They deserve approval.
With the support of the U.S. government, the insurance industry set up an international commission in 1998 through which European insurers agreed to pay out thousands of claims, using relaxed standards of proof. Not all survivors chose to go through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims or to accept the payments they were offered. Many criticized the insurers for underpaying or unfairly denying claims. Instead, some filed lawsuits in the U.S. against European insurers doing business here as well. But federal courts rebuffed their attempts, saying they interfered with U.S. foreign policy, which was geared toward securing the European insurance companies' cooperation with the commission and promoting it as the exclusive arena for survivors' claims.