An Italian insurance company’s agreement to extend by 17 months the deadline to accept new claims from Holocaust victims and their relatives gives some victims another chance to find records of their losses, a museum official said.
Paul Shapiro, an executive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., said the decision by Assicurazioni Generali to extend the March 31 deadline to Aug. 31, 2008, means victims may benefit from the opening of sealed Nazi archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany.
The archives hold information on Nazi concentration camps and their prisoners.
The settlement would end the last of the large cases brought in U.S. courts to get money from companies responsible for aiding Nazis during the Holocaust.
“It’s very hard to tell whether there’s documentation here or not that relate to those claims in a way that will help people,” Shapiro said. “The key, however, is to give people an opportunity to find out.”
Shapiro, who has lobbied for years for the sealed Nazi archives to be opened, said it was unclear if they would be opened in time, even with the extension.
Lawyers for the insurance company and plaintiffs who sued the company a decade ago did not immediately return telephone messages for comment Tuesday.
Generali already has paid $135 million to settle claims with thousands of people. About 5,000 more Holocaust victims or their heirs are expected to make new claims.
Last month, a U.S. District judge heard lawyers for six objectors to the settlement plan say the deal would provide relief to only 5 percent of tens of thousands of victims, while denying others the chance to prove their cases in the years ahead.
Samuel Dubbin, a lawyer for victims objecting to the plan, said Tuesday that the extension was “an improvement, but it doesn’t address the larger problems with the settlement.”
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