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Holocaust survivors' benefits possible

As many as 2,000 Holocaust survivors who live in Florida may be entitled to life insurance benefits never paid after World War II, state regulators say.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 20 in Miami Beach, which has a large Jewish population, for Holocaust survivors and the families of victims who may have had such policies from European insurers.

"Many of these European companies now have operations in the United States," Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson said. "That's our hook."

An example of a European company with U.S. operations is Allianz AG, the largest insurance firm in Germany. It owns Fireman's Fund, which has an office in Coral Gables.

Allianz sold 1.3-million life insurance policies between 1933 and 1945.

"We've said from the beginning in the case of legitimate claims we'd research them and pay them," Allianz spokesman Christopher Worthley said Thursday from his Munich office.

The company has not yet found any claims it considers legitimate. Many policyholders were compensated by the German government in the 1950s and 1960s, and sometimes not all members of a family may be aware of that, Worthley said.

Pierre Chanover, president of Child Survivors of the Holocaust in Boca Raton, called the state's effort encouraging but cautioned people from expecting too much.

"The problem is the proof," Chanover said. "How can you provide records when the entire family was wiped out and everyone was burned and killed? Still, we must not leave a stone unturned."

Nelson is hosting the hearing with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Florida has 5,140 Holocaust survivors registered with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. New York has the most, with 14,864, followed by California with 6,367.