American Insurance Association v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. 396, 7 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

ing the value of insurance policies, and in particular policies of life insurance, a form of savings held by many Jews in Europe before the Second World War. Early on in the Nazi era, loss of livelihood forced Jews to cash in life insurance policies prematurely, only to have the government seize the proceeds of the repurchase, and many who tried to emigrate from Germany were forced to liquidate insurance policies to pay the steep "flight taxes" and other levies imposed by the Third Reich to keep Jewish assets from leaving the country. See G. Feldman, Allianz and the German Insurance Business, 1933-1945, pp. 249-262 (2001). Before long, the Reich began simply seizing the remaining policies outright.1 In 1941, the 11th Decree of the Reich Citizenship Law declared the confiscation of assets (including insurance policies) of Jews deported to the concentration camps, and two years later the 13th Decree did the same with respect to property of the dead, each decree requiring banks and insurance companies to identify Jewish accounts and transmit the funds to the Reich treasury. Id., at 264-274. After the war, even a policy that had escaped confiscation was likely to be dishonored, whether because insurers denied its existence or claimed it had lapsed from unpaid premiums during the persecution, or because the government would not provide heirs with documentation of the policyholder's death. See M. Bazyler, Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America's Courts 117-122 (2003). Responsibility as between the government and insurance companies is disputed, but at the end

1 A vivid precursor of the kind of direct confiscation that would become widespread by 1941 was the Reich's seizure of property and casualty insurance proceeds in the aftermath of the November 1938 Kristallnacht, in which Nazi looting and vandalism inflicted damage to Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues worth nearly 50 million deutsch marks. Days afterward, a Reich decree mandated that all proceeds of all insurance claims arising from the damage be paid directly to the state treasury, an obligation ultimately settled by German insurance companies with the Reich at a mere pittance relative to full value. See Feldman, Allianz and the German Insurance Business, at 190-235.

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