BOCA RATON, Florida, Feb. 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- For seven years, South Florida Holocaust survivors have protested at the annual Allianz PGA Golf Championship here, calling for giant German insurance company Allianz, A.G. to pay more than $2.5 billion owed survivors for paid-up insurance policies before WWII. After large crowds and extensive international media coverage in the early years, attendance dwindled as many South Florida survivors became too weak to participate and were discouraged by Allianz's refusal to meet them face-to-face.
That all changed Sunday, when over 150 people carried signs demanding Allianz make good on its debts to survivors and also that the PGA and Boca Raton not renew Allianz's sponsorship. This unprecedented success is due to several factors.
First, an informal group of local volunteers recruited residents to provide a voice for survivors, who they realized could no longer stand up for themselves. "This is about injustice and it struck a chord with people," said volunteer coordinator Janet Myles Schwartz, Boca Raton. "With evidence showing half the survivors worldwide live in poverty and lack adequate medical care, this is just not right. If the Allianz contract is renewed, we'll be able to double our numbers again next year. There is fresh enthusiasm to contact elected officials, start petitions, and finally get this whole disgraceful situation resolved."
Second, the group was energized by the filing of legislation by U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, John Garamendi, and Brad Sherman, and Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, to guarantee survivors' and families' rights to go to court to recover these unpaid policies – HR 762 and S.258. Congressional leaders feel momentum following unanimous 2016 resolutions calling on Germany to provide comprehensively for all survivors' needs, to finally fulfill Chancellor Adenauer's promise from the 1950s. Notably, Rep Ros-Lehtinen was recently appointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan to the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
According to David Schaecter, President of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (HSF): "Allianz and other insurers continue to shame themselves, and must be required to honor all policies they sold to our families. We hope and pray that President Trump will hear us, and join with the broad, bi-partisan members of Congress to restore our rights, and ensure that all survivors and our families receive justice and dignity in our last years."
Finally, was the inspiring example set by Auschwitz survivor Jack Rubin, an outspoken protest leader who testified several times before Congress, calling on Germany, Allianz, Generali, and other Holocaust profiteers to pay all documented claims and disgorge the remainder to provide for survivors' care.
Tragically, Mr. Rubin passed away last summer. However, his granddaughter Cara, a freshman at Florida Atlantic University, was one of dozens of young people at the rally: "My grandfather was an amazing man who left us a legacy of standing up for what's right. Joining the protest was a way for me to keep his fighting spirit alive."
Buchenwald and Birkenau survivor Moric Jusovic, who worked alongside Jack Rubin for many years, summed it up: "Most of us survivors are worn out and no longer have the stamina to stand in protest. So on behalf of all of us, I thank all those who were willing to stand up for us on Sunday, especially the younger ones. Thank you for letting us pass this torch to you."
The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA Executive Committee:
Israel Arbeiter, Boston MA
Dena Axelrod, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Renee Firestone, Los Angeles, CA
Ella Frumkin, Los Angeles, CA
Nesse Godin, Washington D.C.
Jay Ipson, Richmond, VA
Louise Lawrence-Israels, Washington D.C.
Herbert Karliner, Miami Beach, FL
Annette Lantos, Washington, D.C.
David Mermelstein, Miami FL
Alex Moskovic, Hobe Sound, FL
Leo Rechter, Queens, NY
Shirley Rubin, Boynton Beach, FL
David Schaecter, Miami, FL
Anita Schuster, Las Vegas NV
Agnes Vertes, Weston, CT
Esther Widman, Brooklyn NY
SOURCE Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA