Sjoa foundation (Holocaust Foundation for Individual Insurance Claims)

 

Board of Directors Meetings
During the first board meeting held on 31 January 2000 decisions were made as to the housing and organisation of the secretariat, staffing, asset management, a publicity campaign and setting up an Internet site.

During the second meeting held on 23 February 2000 it was decided to publish a list of 750 names of unpaid policies on the Internet site. Approval first had to be obtained from the Registration Office. These names were placed on the Internet site in early April. For publicity support, the Foundation published a press release and board member Numann was interviewed on the radio. Publication of the list attracted considerable attention in various media.

The Board meets approximately once every month. The greater part of these meetings is taken up by decisions on payments. Other subjects are the Foundation’s organisation and activities, the progress of applications, publicity, external contacts and asset management.

Various specialists in the employ of insurance companies were invited to attend the last meeting held in the year 2000 in order to take part in a discussion on war policy payments based on some practical examples. The main conclusions of this meeting were:

 

Secretariat
It was decided to house the Foundation’s secretariat in the building belonging to the Verbond van Verzekeraars [Dutch Association of Insurers], so that it can dispose of the necessary support and facilities there. Obviously, it will have its own address, post office box, telephone number, Internet site and e-mail address. It was decided to staff the secretariat with a secretary for one to two days a week and administrative support for 2.5 days. Mrs. P.J. van Oosterhout, who had already helped settle war claims on behalf of the Association, was appointed Secretary.

During the first few months brochures and forms were drawn up in Dutch and English, a registration system was acquired, an Internet site was set up and an office was furnished. In February 2000 a publicity campaign was held with advertisements in Dutch, Israeli and American newspapers. A telephone line was opened which affected parties can use to register on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Thousands of brochures were distributed in the course of the following months.

The first forms started arriving through the post, by fax and e-mail at the end of February 2000. A list of unpaid policies was published on the Internet and resulted in many applications in early April.

At the beginning of May, the Foundation had received almost 3500 applications of which 1200 were received directly by the Foundation, 900 were taken over from the Association and the insurance companies, 1000 were received via the Centraal Meldpunt Joodse Oorlogsclaims [Central Registration Desk for Jewish War Claims] and 400 came in via the Centraal Meldpunt Israël [Central Registration Desk for Israel].

The number of applications was significantly higher than had been taken into account when the secretariat was set up. The staff at that time could not handle the volume. The secretariat had to be restructured and expanded in order to process the applications properly. Clear procedures were also required.

These issues were sufficient cause for Mrs. Van Oosterhout to resign as Secretary as they could not be combined with her work at the Association. As from 1 July 2000, Mr. H.T.C.J. van der Well was appointed as new full-time Secretary. Mr. Van der Well was the coordinator at the Centraal Meldpunt Joodse Oorlogsclaims where he had gained experience in insurance claims. The secretariat has now been restructured and new procedures have since been established but initially there was a high turnover rate and much absenteeism among the personnel, some of whom were temporary employees.

After the volume of work in progress and completion times was surveyed in the spring of 2001, it was decided to expand the research capacity. Staffing has increased from 0.8 FTE to 4.7 FTE and will continue to increase in the coming months to 5 FTE. A total of 8 people now work at the Foundation.

Application
The applications can be divided into three categories:

The applications are processed in a registration system. This system records the data of the applicants, relations, war victims, insurances, status of the applications and the correspondence. The manner in which data was recorded in the system during the first few months of the Foundation’s existence was inadequate for dealing with the applications effectively. Nor was data entered consistently due to the high turnover of temporary employees. This required the necessary attention, besides which the entry backlog had to be made up.

The following is an overview of the cumulative number of applicants, applications and their status (rounded off to the nearest 50)

End of 2000 November 2001
Number of applicants 1200 1500
Number of applications 5000 6300
Of which:
– finalised applications 1000 2200
– under investigation by insurance company 2000 2300
– under investigation by Foundation 250 550
– to be processed 1750 1250

Payments
As stated previously, the Board has determined that it must be sorted out who the entitled party or parties is/are for each payment. Practice proves this to be very labour-intensive and time-consuming. In many cases applicants have a certificate of inheritance, usually dated in the 1960s. However they must be ‘translated’ to today. To do so requires that a great amount of information be requested from municipalities.

With regard to the list of unpaid policies as published on the Internet, it was established upon investigation that some policies had indeed been paid out in the past. These names were provided by the insurance companies, proving that the archives are incomplete and showing how complex these matters can be.

Before paying out a policy, the amount of the payment must be determined. Occasionally there is so little information that the policy must be reconstructed. In some instances, the advice of an actuary, civil-law notary or another expert must be obtained.

In order to make payment, the Foundation requires a copy of an identity document, the address, and the bank or giro account details of each entitled party.

Due to these labour-intensive activities, it took some time for the Foundation to start making payments.

In 2000, eight policies totalling € 51,958.28 (NLG 114,501.00) were paid out to sixteen entitled parties. The number of payments increased significantly in 2001. As per the end of November, 89 policies in the total amount of € 385,625.05 (NLG 849,805.80) were paid out to 193 entitled parties.

The payments are tax-exempt in the Netherlands and no income tax is due on the amount.

External contacts
The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), also referred to as the Eagleburger Committee after its chairman, was established in 1998. This Commission is made up of insurance regulators from the United States, representatives of Israeli and Jewish organisations and insurance companies.

ICHEIC was most interested in the situation in the Netherlands. Not only was the Netherlands the first country in the world where the insurance companies and the Jewish community came to an agreement, but some of these Dutch insurance companies also had interests in the U.S.A. The Association became a member of the ICHEIC in May 2000.

In the year 2000, regulators from California, Washington and New York visited the Foundation and spoke with the Board. They were impressed with what had been achieved in the Netherlands.

ICHEIC has also started handling claims. They have received several hundreds of claims relating to the Netherlands. ICHEIC contacted the Foundation to make an agreement enabling these claims to be handled via the Foundation. To this end, the deputy chairman of ICHEIC, G. Fitchew, visited the Board of the Foundation in October 2000. The Board declared itself in favour of collaborating with ICHEIC and promised to consider the possibility of a complaints committee.

At the end of August 2001 the final agreement was signed and the Foundation will now also handle the claims received by ICHEIC. It was also decided to implement a complaints committee.

The Foundation is in close contact with the Association and the insurance companies. As it is housed within the Association’s building, the Foundation can make use of all available facilities there. Regular meetings on the course of events are held with the insurance companies. The possibility of making their archives more accessible is also being discussed with the insurance companies. This would make it easier for them to carry out better investigations.

Close contact is also maintained with other institutes, namely:

The NIOD has important archives containing a great deal of information on Jewish families and inheritance aspects. The Board has decided to have this archive copied onto CD-ROM so that the Foundation can carry out its investigations in-house and in order to reduce the necessity for requesting additional information from applicants. This project will be completed by the end of 2001.

Prospects
The Board has expressed its concern about the fact that the Foundation was unable to achieve its aim to make a decision on an application within six months. The following factors played a role here:

Steps have been taken to improve the situation. These steps are intended to ensure that the organisation will expand further and become more professional, and that completion times, now longer than one year, are reduced so that the target period of six months for taking a decision on an application will be realised.

The main actions are related to:

The fact that the number of applications has dropped significantly in 2001 will contribute to reducing the completion time. However, the agreement with ICHEIC will result in more work.

If possible and based on insurance company statements, the Foundation will continue to supplement the list on the Internet with new information on unpaid policies.

The implementation of the complaints committee is approaching completion. The Board has changed the regulations for this and the committee was inaugurated at the end of 2001.

Sjoa Foundation for individual insurance claims
P.o. Box 91475, 2509 EB The Hague – The Netherlands
Telephone (09.00 – 12.00 h.) 00.31.70.3338546, fax 00.31.70.3338846

The Hague, January 2002

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