Eagleburger Briefly Resigns as Holocaust Claims Fund Chairman

January 24, 2002

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger reportedly stormed out of a meeting with European insurers yesterday, and abruptly resigned his position as Chairman of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC); however, after protracted discussions he was persuaded to resume the post.

According to a report from London’s Financial Times, Eagleburger was not only frustrated by the failure of the talks to make progress in settling Holocaust claims disputes, but apparently became fed up with criticism of his work, accusations of bias from the insurance companies involved, and frustration that he lacked the authority to impose solutions.

The slow pace of insurance claims settlements – according to the FT, 79,000 have been presented, but only 1000 have received settlement offers and only 275 of those have been accepted – is in sharp contrast to plans by European companies and banks to compensate Holocaust victims and their families, which have moved ahead with the establishment of funds and claims settlements.

The negotiations with Europe’s biggest insurers – Germany’s Allianz, France’s AXA, Switzerland’s Zurich and Winterthur and Italy’s Generali – have by contrast moved at a snail’s pace, despite some progress. Generali agreed to establish a separate fund of $150 million for Holocaust related claims, but the others have accused the ICHEIC and Jewish groups of making unreasonable demands and excessive cost estimates, and have refused to do more than examine some claims for settlement.

This has led to a good deal or rancor, and accusations that the insurers are making impossible demands and intentionally delaying payments. Eagleburger’s frustration with the apparent impasse finally boiled over, but by returning to his post he may have obtained enough additional authority to break the logjam.

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