Italian insurance firm reveals list of unclaimed policies

Last year, a group of Knesset members accused the company of concealing information on policyholders who died in the Holocaust.

The lawmakers threatened to block Generali's acquisition of a controlling stake in Migdal, an Israeli insurance group, for more than $300 million if Generali did not agree to compensate families.

While insisting it was not liable for the claims, the company agreed in response to establish a $12 million compensation fund last June and pledged to open its archives to the public.

"Generali has cooperated with Yad Vashem and carried out its promise," said Amihud Ben-Porat, Generali's representative in Israel. "We have compiled more than 300,000 names in six months."

But after hearing that the CD-ROM contained 300,000 names, one Israeli lawmaker accused the company of deceiving the Knesset.

"They concealed information," said Michael Kleiner, a Knesset member from the Gesher Party and chairman of the parliamentary subcommittee on insurance.

"We assumed there were hundreds of claimants at the time we agreed to the fund. We never dreamed there were more than 300,000 names."

Kleiner believes some 80 percent of the names are Jewish Holocaust victims and estimates the dormant insurance policies could be worth billions of dollars.

But Ben-Porat rejected Kleiner's claim, saying the database contained names of every person who took out a policy in Eastern Europe between 1920 and 1945.

The company has "no idea" how many were Jews or Holocaust victims, he said.

Last year's dispute began after Knesset members learned that Generali's warehouse in Trieste, Italy, contained thousands of files of dormant insurance policies.

Generali has insisted that it is not liable because its prewar assets in Eastern Europe were nationalized by Communist governments after World War II.

In addition to the fund, the company has set up an information center for queries regarding claims.

The current deadline for requests for compensation is July 7, but Generali says it plans to extend the deadline by three to six months.

Meanwhile, Kleiner has asked the Israeli government to match a $5 million U.S. government grant for researching Holocaust property-related issues.

He wants to create an Internet site which, in addition to listing all the names listed on the CD-ROM provided by Generali, would provide a database of all Holocaust victims.