Author Archives: HSF editor

Capitol Police defend the US Capitol building from encroachment by violent insurrectionists Wednesday. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Survivors Condemn Capitol Attack, Antisemitic Imagery of Insurrectionists

HSF-USA Statement on Riots at the United States Capitol
January 10, 2021 

As Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, we are profoundly saddened and angered by the violent attack on the United States Capitol and Congress to prevent our Nation’s sacred peaceful transition of power. It was an insurrection, an effort to overturn the people’s will in the November 3 election. For shame! We abhor the violence that threatens our ability to live together in the diverse, free, and democratic United States that we so deeply love.


It is also painful, in the year 2021, to see so many people brandishing symbols of anti-Semitism and racial bigotry, such as shirts glorifying the Holocaust, a gallows and noose, and the Confederate flag, as they attacked our Democracy. We appreciate President-Elect Biden’s clear denunciation of the anti-democratic riots, and his recognition of their anti-Semitic and racist elements.


 Dangerous anti-Semitic conspiracies once confined to dark corners of the internet are gaining traction in “respectable” quarters, without clear condemnation by all who call themselves leaders. We have previously spoken out about the painful rise of anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence including murders at religious gatherings in Pittsburgh, Poway, Monsey, and in Europe as well.


We, the remaining voices for six million Jews who were murdered because of the “normalization” of these tactics in Nazi Germany and Europe, are speaking out to sound the alarm loud and clear. The poisonous political rhetoric from government leaders and media designed to arouse hateful passions, fan the flames of anger and violence, must be condemned by our leaders at every level, and by all of us in our families, businesses, religious institutions, and communities.

As Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, we are profoundly saddened and angered by the violent attack on the United States Capitol and Congress to prevent our Nation's sacred peaceful transition of power. It was an insurrection, an effort to overturn the people's will i the Novemmber 3 election. For shame! We abhor the violence that threatens our ability to live together in the diverse, free, and democratic United States that we so deeply love.

RBG Dissent in Garamendi A Major Beacon to SCOTUS

On October 29, 2020, the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (HSF), and several of its individual leaders filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court in support of Holocaust survivors and victims’ heirs in two consolidated cases set for oral argument on December 7, 2020:  Republic of Hungary v. Rosalie Simon, and Federal Republic of Germany v. Alan Philipp.   Simon is a class action by Hungarian survivors against the Hungarian National Railway for compensation for the Railway’s theft of the victims’ property during Hungary’s deportation of Hungarian Jewry to Auschwitz beginning in 1944.   Philipp is a claim by the heirs of German Jewish art collectors who the Nazis forced to sell a valuable art collection for minimal value in 1935. 

The HSF amicus brief supports and applauds the decision of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which held that Germany’s and Hungary’s theft of Jewish citizens’ property in perpetrating the Holocaust constituted genocide and therefore was a “taking of rights in property in violation of international law,” establishing federal court jurisdiction for the plaintiffs’ restitution claims under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).  Further, HSF agrees with the D.C. Circuit’s decision that once FSIA jurisdiction is satisfied, the foreign governments or instrumentalities are not entitled to use amorphous “foreign policy” arguments to displace jurisdictional criteria established by Congress and applied by the Courts, which is what Germany, Hungary, and the U.S. Government are urging the Supreme Court to allow.    

HSF is making this important effort to support the Simon and Philipp plaintiffs because, sadly, U.S. courts at all levels have often invoked “foreign policy” to deny Holocaust survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims the rights, protections, and benefits of existing and well-established judicial principles and doctrines.  The results have been catastrophic for Holocaust victims, allowing governmental and corporate Holocaust profiteers to avoid accountability, and denying survivors and victims’ families the opportunity to obtain material and moral restitution available under the law.   

  The HSF’s amicus brief focuses on the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in American Insurance Association, Inc. v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. 396 (2003).  In Garamendi, the Court held that a California statute requiring insurers doing business there to publish information about unpaid Holocaust era insurance policies was preempted by the executive branch’s “foreign policy,” despite the lack of any treaty, statute, or preemptive executive agreement.   The Court relied on letters and congressional testimony of lower level executive branch officials, and an expressly non-preemptive executive agreement, to strike down the California statute.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a blistering dissent in Garamendi, and brilliantly deconstructed the majority’s reasoning.  Among other points, Justice Ginsburg showed that it was unprecedented and contrary to established constitutional jurisprudence to hold that a state law like California’s could be “preempted” by amorphous “foreign policy” unconnected to an act of federal lawmaking, such as a Treaty signed by the President and ratified by the Senate, or a statute passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President.  Justice Ginsburg wrote:

We have never premised foreign affairs preemption on statements of that order . . .  We should not do so here lest we place the considerable power of the foreign affairs preemption in the hands of individual sub-Cabinet members of the Executive Branch. . . ‘[N]o authoritative text accords such officials the power to invalidate state law simply by conveying the Executive’s views on matters of federal policy.  The displacement of state law by preemption properly requires a considerably more formal and binding federal instrument.   

539 U.S. at 442 (emphasis supplied).  She added:  “As I see it, courts step out of their proper role when they rely on no legislative or even executive text, but only an inference and implication, to preempt state laws on foreign affairs grounds.”  Justice Ginsburg’s dissent was joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Stevens. 

With Justice Ginsburg’s passing, the Holocaust survivor leadership believes it is important to reprise her important analysis now to prevent Holocaust collaborators and profiteers to resort to standardless and shifting “foreign policy” considerations to supersede established legal principles,  which the DC Circuit correctly applied: 

The concerns raised by Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Garamendi sound a clear warning for the Simon and Philipp cases.  Germany and Hungary ask the Court to abandon the long-established principles of statutory construction applied by the Court of Appeals below, and allow standardless Executive branch “foreign policy” to dictate the rights of Holocaust survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims.  In Garamendi, this approach inflicted pain, insult, and financial injury to Holocaust survivors and their families, and handed a multi-billion dollar windfall to global insurers such as Allianz, Generali, AXA, and others, who collaborated with the Nazis and profited from the Holocaust. 
The organization’s amicus brief was filed by HSF’s long-time counsel Samuel J. Dubbin, of the law firm of Dubbin & Kravetz, LLP, in Miami, Florida.     

HSF Statement on the Passing of Congressman John Lewis

Civil Rights leader John Lewis stood up for his family and all Black Americans to demand desegregation of white supremacist institutions and address systemic injustice through nonviolence and direct action. HSF-USA recognizes the importance of Representative Lewis’s voice, from the Freedom Riders to the House of Representatives, in advancing the cause of freedom, justice, equality and dignity for all people.

Many candles in a vigil, symbolizing the millions of lives that were destroyed by the Nazis.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: We have to help each other

Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is occurring in 2020 during the very uncertain and dangerous coronavirus pandemic, with its terrible toll in human lives and suffering. Our hearts go out to all who have lost loved ones.

We are compelled to speak out about continuing injustices and at the same time, reflect on our survival, and the survival of the Jewish people, and share a common message of hope. It is our belief that the only way forward is to help each other, to rely on ourselves.

"With all those promises, I applied to ICHEIC. They said they could not find my father’s name. They sent a check for $1000 as a 'humanitarian payment.' ICHEIC sent out 34,000 of those $1000 checks. Survivors deeply resent the idea of a 'humanitarian payment' instead of the funds we know our parents set aside in case of a disaster. The whole thing was an insult to survivors, and it still is."

David Mermelstein’s Statement to the US Senate

I remember there was a plaque on our in house that said there was insurance, by Generali. My father was a careful businessman, so naturally he would have had insurance to protect his business and his family. Many survivors also remember those plaques, or an agent coming around every two weeks to collect premiums, but most of us 3were too young to know the name of the insurance company. Of course we have no documents for obvious reasons. In 1998, we worked closely with our Florida Insurance Commissioner, Bill Nelson, for a State law to make the companies publish all the names and allow survivors to go to court if they wouldn’t settle. That is when the companies came up with the idea of the ICHEIC commission – because of pressure from the states. Still, everyone told us ICHEIC was voluntary and not binding unless you agreed to a settlement. So, with all those promises, I applied to ICHEIC. They said they could not find my father’s name. They sent a check for $1000 as a“humanitarian payment.”ICHEIC sent out 34,000 of those $1000 checks. Survivors deeply resent the idea of a ‘humanitarian payment’ instead of the funds we know our parents set aside in case of a disaster. The whole thing was an insult to survivors, and it still is.

"With all those promises, I applied to ICHEIC. They said they could not find my father’s name. They sent a check for $1000 as a 'humanitarian payment.' ICHEIC sent out 34,000 of those $1000 checks. Survivors deeply resent the idea of a 'humanitarian payment' instead of the funds we know our parents set aside in case of a disaster. The whole thing was an insult to survivors, and it still is."

Full Senate Judiciary Hearing from September 17, 2019

Senate Committee on the Judiciary
September 17, 2019
Panel:
Mr. Baird Webel
Specialist in Financial Economics
Congressional Research Service
Washington , DC
Mr. David Mermelstein
President
Holocaust Survivors of Miami-Dade County, FL
Miami , FL
Ms. Anna B. Rubin
Director
Holocaust Claims Processing Office
New York State Department of Financial Services
New York, NY
Mr. Samuel Dubbin
Counsel to
Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA
Coral Gables , FL
Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat
Former U.S. Ambassador and Special Advisor on Holocaust Issues
United States Department of State
Washington , DC

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Unpaid Holocaust-Era Insurance

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

On Tuesday, September 17, at 10:00 am, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the subject of unpaid Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.  Further info and a stream of the hearing are available at the Senate Judiciary Committee website. HSF submitted the materials attached in the document below to Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham on Friday, September 13.

David Schaecter tells the AP: the companies have demanded original paperwork, such as death certificates, that were not available after World War II. The survivors want to take insurance companies to court in the U.S. to recover the money, but it would take an act of Congress to allow it. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“Aging Holocaust survivors try to sue over Nazi-era insurance” AP story

“This is an insult to humanity,” said Schaecter, 90, president of the organization and a survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. “I think they are trying to sweep it under the carpet. The fact is, we are a dying breed. There are so few of us left.”

Read more in the Sun-Sentinel and Associated Press

The survivors want to take insurance companies to court in the U.S. to recover the money, but it would take an act of Congress to allow it. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
HSF-USA members David Schaecter and David Mermelstein gathered at Mo’s Bagels and Deli in Aventura with Curt Anderson and Wilfredo Lee from the AP. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Remembering Mark E. Talisman, an inspiring and tireless champion for survivors


It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Mark E. Talisman, Founding Vice Chairman of the US Holocaust Memorial Council and beloved friend. Mark was appointed to the Council by President Carter and served as Vice Chairman from 1980-1986.

The US Holocaust Museum’s flags being flown at half-staff on Friday in memory of Mark Talisman.

      We share our love and condolences with Mark’s wife, Jill Talisman, daughter Jessica Talisman, granddaughter Colby Herman and grandson Gus Herman, son Rafi and daughter in law Karma Talisman, and grandson Sascha Talisman.

Mark Talisman Statement

Honoring the memory of Mark Talisman

The Times of Israel Obituary for Mark Talisman

From JewishMiami.org

HSF-USA Ally Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day

A few weeks ago, our friend and recently retired Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, gave a magnificent speech to the leadership of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, in which she was very clear about the imperative for governmental and community leadership to be more responsive to Holocaust survivors rights, needs and interests.  She also spoke eloquently about the importance of steadfast support for the State of Israel in these perilous times.  The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA is extremely grateful for Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s commitment to Holocaust survivors and the safety and security of the State of Israel.

Thank you,

David Schaecter, HSF-USA President

Ileana’s Zachor Speech PDF — April 11, 2019