(JTA) – Holocaust survivors praised the termination of Allianz’s sponsorship of an annual Florida golf tournament.
Survivors, who say the international insurance company still owes an estimated $2 billion in unpaid claims to them, have been protesting the annual PGA seniors tournament held in Boca Raton since 2011. Allianz has sponsored the tournament for the past 11 years.
Family members and supporters joined survivors at a news conference Monday on the front steps of the Boca Raton City Hall, coinciding with Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It is a day to remember and pray for the victims of the Holocaust who perished – and to convey our determination not to forget their suffering and the hate that brought it about,” the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA said in a statement issued Monday. “The end of the Allianz sponsorship is a tremendous victory for survivors. We also believe it will be a springboard for long-overdue actions to respect our rights and needs.”
The foundation pointed to a perennial bipartisan bill in Congress that would allow Holocaust survivors to sue insurance companies in U.S. courts. The bill was most recently reintroduced in February.
Although the survivors and activists claimed victory, a tournament director told the Palm Beach Post on Thursday that Allianz “chose not to renew” its contract but did not say why it pulled out. A spokeswoman for Boca Raton said city administrators and elected officials “did not terminate a relationship with Allianz.”
Still, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called the decision to end Allianz’s sponsorship of the tournament “welcome but long overdue news,” in a statement issued Monday. Ros-Lehtinen has been a co-sponsor of the legislation to allow survivors to sue the insurance company in U.S. courts.
“Today will mark the beginning of a renewed effort for all of the next steps the survivors need – we can no longer sit idly by and allow these survivors to continue to be victimized and denied their day in court,” she said.
Holocaust survivors have previously attempted to sue Allianz in an effort to reclaim insurance payments on thousands of life insurance policies that the company sold to Jews in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Survivors who attempted to file claims with Allianz after World War II were refused due to a lack of documentation, including death certificates.
“As Holocaust survivor leaders who have long advocated for the rights, interests, and needs of survivors throughout the U.S. and the world, we applaud this important step,” the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA said in its statement. “For the past seven years, Holocaust survivors, our families, and community supporters protested at the site of the tournament, citing Allianz’s long-standing refusal to honor tens of thousands of insurance policies it sold to Jewish Holocaust victims – valued today at more than $2.5 billion. That sum represents less than three months’ operating profit for Allianz.”
Allianz has acknowledged its connections to the Third Reich and vowed to resolve any unclaimed settlements. As part of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, the company paid more than $306 million to some 48,000 claimants by 2006, but survivors say the insurance group still owes more money from insurance policies purchased by Eastern European Jews during the Holocaust.