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Committee on Financial Services

United States House of Representatives

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The Committee on Banking and Financial Services
U.S House of Representatives, 105th Congress
James A. Leach, Chairman

Phone: (202) 226-0471 Fax: (202) 226-6052 Internet:

For Immediate Release                                              
Thursday, February 12, 1998   Andrew Biggs 226-0471


Closing Statement
Rep. James A. Leach
Chairman, House Banking and Financial Services Committee
Hearing on World War II-Era Looted Art and Insurance

We have again come to the end of a long day of hearings on the problem of restitution of Holocaust victims’ assets. This morning we examined issues involved in returning looted or extorted art works to their rightful owners.

I was particularly gratified by the forthright and determined attitude of four of our country’s, indeed the world’s, leading museums not to let the shadow of a single tainted work of art darken their walls. In this regard, the scholarship and advocacy of the Art Dealers Association of America, the B’nai B’rith Klutznik National Jewish Museum, the World Jewish Congress and the Smithsonian Institution is impressive and appreciated.

This afternoon we were all moved by the testimony of three Americans who were touched by the Holocaust. Their stories personalized one of the great remaining and still unplumbed restitution problems, payment on life and casualty insurance policies taken out after the dawn of the Nazi era.

In this context, the work of our state insurance commissioners, particularly Commissioners Senn and Quackenbush, in pursuing justice is to be commended, as is the advocacy of the World Jewish Congress and Risk International. I would also like to express appreciation that representatives of two insurance companies – Allianz and Generali –agreed to engage in a discussion with this committee. The problem of outstanding insurance claims can best be resolved quickly through good faith efforts on both sides, and such efforts must begin with dialogue. I regret that other companies involved in these Holocaust claims demonstrated a reluctance to forthrightly step forward.

This committee will be monitoring the progress of private and state efforts and, if required, we are ready to lend a helping hand. In this regard, I would strongly underscores the reasonableness of the idea of establishing an independent commission, along the lines of the Volcker Commission, to review insurance company accountability.







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