World Report

ZURICH (JTA) — American pressure is mounting on Swiss insurance companies to make good on unpaid policies from the Holocaust era.

The row intensified this week after Swiss insurers argued that domestic laws bar them from opening up their books regarding the insurance policies taken out by Holocaust victims.

U.S. insurance officials, in turn, have accused Swiss insurers of blocking access to their archives to cover up their behavior during World War II.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has been holding a series of hearings across the United States to seek out Holocaust survivors and the heirs of victims who have not received payouts from insurance policies held during World War II.

The officials are investigating claims that European insurance firms blocked payments to the families of death camp victims.

Deborah Senn, president of the commissioners group, threatened to send American inspectors to Switzerland.

"We see a legal basis for investigations in Switzerland because these companies also operate in the U.S.," Senn said.

The efforts of her group are significant for European insurers because the American officials have regulatory power over the American affiliates and subsidiaries of the targeted European insurance companies.

Communist leader using racist rhetoric

MOSCOW (JTA) — The leader of Russia's Communist Party is stirring up racist sentiments.

"One can seldom see a Russian face in the government," Gennady Zyuganov told a rally in downtown Moscow, where some 15,000 people gathered this week to mark the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Red Army.

It was unclear whether his attempt to distinguish between ethnic Russians and minorities living within the country was directed exclusively at Jews.

But given the prominence of some Jews in the Yeltsin administration, it is difficult to imagine that he was excluding Jews from his attack.

Zyuganov, who placed second to Yeltsin in the 1996 presidential elections, recently called for policies to revive the power and prestige of ethnic Russians.

Zyuganov told the rally that the opposition will take to the streets in April or May to "force the regime to resign."

He also called on his supporters to hold a nationwide protest April 9 against Yeltsin.

Hate crimes down in Canada last year

MONTREAL (JTA) — Reports of anti-Semitism were down in Canada by 13 percent in 1997, according to a report released by B'nai Brith Canada.

There were 212 reports of such incidents across the country last year, which is down from 244 reported incidents in 1996, according to B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights.

The number of incidents reported in the workplace and at educational institutions, however, increased.

Despite the overall decline, there's a new way for Canadian anti-Semites such as the Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel to promulgate their views — the Internet, said Rochelle Wilner, national chairman of the League for Human Rights.