IN HEARINGS BEFORE THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE IN THE NATION’S CAPITOL LAST WEEK, THE EXECUTIVE OF THE AMERICAN GATHERING OF JEWISH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS ISSUED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT:

September 10, 2008

Hon. John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
2426 Rayburn Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Conyers,

The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, the umbrella organization for survivor groups in North America, does not support the passage of H.R. 1746, the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act.

In a December 2, 2007 resolution passed by its Board, the American Gathering stated the proposed legislation was “flawed in that it appears to be principally motivated by the avarice of lawyers and in that it raises unrealistic expectations in the survivor community.”

In that same resolution, however, the American Gathering “affirm[ed] its unequivocal support of the right of Holocaust survivors to pursue claims of moral and material restitution in every appropriate venue” and “welcome[d] legislation that strengthens and advances such rights with respect to insurance and other restitution claims.”

In other words, the American Gathering, upon careful consideration, concluded that H.R. 1746, all things considered, was not the right legislation for Holocaust survivors. The legislation will, in the end, deeply disappoint survivors by creating lofty expectations of insurance payments for many which will, at best, occur for only a few. Even the handful of survivors who might successfully overcome the onerous evidentiary and other legal burdens posed by a lawsuit will, most likely, not live to see the result.

Finally, we are quite concerned about the damage such a law might cause for survivors in the greatest need, should it undermine negotiations with Germany and other countries involving millions of dollars in Holocaust-related compensation and funding for social services for survivors.

While recognizing there were problems with the process established by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC)