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Supreme Court unanimously sides with Holocaust survivor heirs in multigenerational dispute over looted artwork

Some good news from the Supreme Court.

The high court has ruled, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, to return to a lower court a case involving a priceless artwork that was expropriated from a Jewish family by the Nazis.

A new article in describes the Cassirer case as follows,

The question before the Court pertained to legal rules determining whether federal or state “choice-of-law” standards for adjudicating the case should be applied in deciding possession of the artwork, estimated to be worth more than $30 million. These rules determine whether the case would be adjudicated under domestic or Spanish law.

“Supreme Court unanimously sides with Jewish family in Nazi looted art case” by Mark Rod April 26, 2022

Justice Kagan wrote in the unanimous US Supreme Court opinion “A foreign state or instrumentality… is liable just as a private party would be.”

“Everywhere, people, governments, and private institutions have looked the other way to profit from the Nazis’ genocidal thefts from the Jewish people — just like Spain and the Museum in this case. Heaven-willing, today’s Court’s decision will not only result in the Cassirers finally recovering their painting, but bring an end to the lies and obfuscations that have been used to deny justice to untold numbers of other Holocaust survivors and their families.” 

Sam Dubbin, quoted in “Supreme Court unanimously sides with Jewish family in Nazi looted art case” by Mark Rod April 26, 2022
remembering israel arbeiter

Remembering Izzy Arbeiter

Israel Arbeiter passed away Friday, October 29 2021 on at age 96.   

Mr. Arbeiter’s life and leadership were legendary.  He was a force of nature and inspiration to people of many generations, faiths, and backgrounds.   

Izzy was the President of the Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston for many decades, and was the driving force behind efforts to keep Holocaust memory and education alive in the Boston community. Always a dedicated advocate for survivors, Izzy was also a treasured resource for modern Germany’s and Poland’s efforts to educate their young people about the Holocaust

Israel Arbeiter, a forceful driver of Holocaust memory in Boston, dies at 96 (JTA)

“There is Never Enough Remembering” Remembering Holocaust Survivor Izzy Arbeiter, 96 (Boston Globe)

Izzy was a fierce champion of justice and dignity for Holocaust survivors.   He was a founding director and member of the executive committee of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, joining with survivor leaders from throughout the U.S. in the year 2000 to advocate for survivors’ rights, interests, and needs. 

He testified three times before the United States Congress about his family’s Generali policy that was never honored, and the need legislation to hold insurers accountable.

Israel Arbeiter shares his story as a first-person witness and survivor of Nazi atrocities in a Holocaust forum.

Izzy was also a member of the survivor advisory committee of the Boston Jewish Children’s and Family Services.  With that, and his knowledge of survivors’ living conditions, Izzy fearlessly drew attention to horrendous shortfalls in funding for survivors’ medical, dental, mental health, long-term care, and other financial needs, and advocated for full funding for survivors needs.

It never took long in a conversation for Izzy to remind you that the Red Sox, the Celtics, and the Patriots, were better than your team, and he knew every game,  play, injury, coaching decision, or official’s call to support his teams’ superiority.

Most importantly, Izzy was extremely proud of his family, especially his grandchildren, and their growth and maturity, their achievements, and the miracle that his and other survivors’ families were able to flourish after what they experienced.

The Jewish community, the survivor community, and the world have lost another great man.

May God comfort Izzy’s wife Anna, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, with all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Remembering David Mermelstein

We are deeply saddened to share the news that former HSF President David Mermelstein, who survived Auschwitz and devoted much of his life to the service of fellow survivors and Holocaust education programs like March of the Living, passed away at 92 on July 6, 2021.

David always had a smile on  his face and endeared himself to thousands of people he met as a family man, entrepreneur, Holocaust survivor, and community leader.

In addition to his vigorous advocacy for survivors’ rights, interests, and needs as HSF Vice President,  David’s legacy includes decades of personally educating thousands of people of all ages through the schools, community groups, churches and synagogues, the Holocaust Memorial, and the March of the Living, who were mesmerized by his and Irene’s telling of their experiences.

The HSF network recognizes David Mermelstein’s important contributions across decades of advocacy work, Holocaust education and community service. Mr. Mermelstein’s brave efforts as a witness and storyteller will be dearly missed, but his spirit endures in the pursuit of justice and dignity for victims of the Shoah.

David is survived by his wife of 70 years, Irene, daughters Helene and Debbi, son Michael and three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington DC, blanketed in sleet and snow

Our statement about today’s SCOTUS decisions against Holocaust survivors

HSF filed an amicus curiae brief in the case supporting the claimants, but the Court ruled – unanimously – in favor of Germany and Hungary and against the survivors and heirs.

Here is the HSF Statement issued today, which states that the focus must now turn to Congress to set definitive rules about accountability for Nazi looting in U.S. courts. 

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

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we echoed the sentiments of our colleague Izzy Arbeiter: 

To me the most important date in history is January 27, 1945, the liberation of Auschwitz.  That is the day the slaughterhouses of the Jewish people were shut down, and hopefully forever ceased the killing of the Jewish people.  If it weren’t for that day, it could still be going on, and the families we brought into this world wouldn’t have been made and be able to accomplish what they have accomplished, in this country, and in Israel. 

For most survivors, the war did not end until all of Europe was liberated in May 1945.    

This year, the commemoration occurs at a time of political upheaval in our country, and an unfortunate trend of people analogizing political events and disagreements to the Holocaust, Hitler, or Nazism.  Analogies to Kristallnacht, the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz or other death camps, or any of the unspeakable crimes of the Holocaust, reflect a very serious misunderstanding of the vast scope of Nazi Germany’s crimes, and the crimes of its collaborators. They also denigrate the memory of 6 million Jews, including one and a half million Jewish children, who were murdered in the Holocaust. 

We all have a responsibility to speak out against hate, bigotry, and violence, which have the potential for ever-greater abuses.  At the same time, we must do everything in our power to remember, and to educate every living soul about the unprecedented crimes against the Jewish people for which we commemorate the anniversary of January 27, 1945.

HSF-USA statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. January 27, 2021.

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.     

Holocaust Survivors Protest Against Allianz Insurance Company Golf Tournament In Boca Raton; Aerial Banner Draws Attention And Protester Arrested

On Sunday, February 7, Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren and many strong supporters demonstrated outside the Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, protesting German insurance giant Allianz, A.G., which has refused to pay claims under their families’ paid-for Holocaust era insurance policies to this day.

Aerial Banner

Explaining an aerial banner that flew over the tournament informing attendees that “Allianz Owes Holocaust Survivors $2.5 Billion,”Jack Rubin, a survivor of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps who demonstrated on Sunday, stated: “It lifted my heart to see that banner in the sky to voice what the survivors feel so deeply. Most survivors are too old and frail to stand on the street and protest, so we decided to get the plane.

How can Allianz’s leadership sleep at night, when they spend millions of dollars for public relations like a golf tournament while tens of thousands of survivors are living in poverty and suffering every day without the care they need. Most of the spectators don’t realize the harm Allianz has caused, but if they did we believe they would join our demands for justice.”

HSF Protester Arrested

In addition, we are deeply troubled to report that Dr. Jay Lieberman, the son of Holocaust survivors and son-in-law of our beloved colleague Ivar Segalowitz who recently passed away, was arrested by Boca Raton Police at the tournament with a banner about Allianz’s dishonored policies. According to Dr. Lieberman: “Most of my father’s family was murdered in Treblinka. My father-in-law Ivar Segalowitz was the sole survivor of a wealthy Lithuanian family. He survived Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Buchenwald, and served in the U.S. military after emigrating to this country.

Despite his mother, grandmother, aunt, and uncle’s names listed among German insurance holders, U.S. law barred him from going to court to reclaim his family legacy. Ivar’s daughter, Genie Lieberman, testified about Ivar in Congress before Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Deutch in 2014. I bought a ticket to the event and was merely exercising my free speech rights to show how unfair it is that Allianz is prospering, but so many survivors are living in poverty.”

Historical Background About Allianz and Holocaust Era Policies
Allianz has refused to honor tens of thousands of insurance policies it had sold to Holocaust victims – demanding original policies, death certificates, and other documents no survivors could provide after the horrors of the expulsions, ghettos, killing fields, and death camps. Today those policies are worth over $2.5 billion.

It is historical fact that Allianz closely collaborated with the German Nazi regime, as its CEO Kurt Schmitt was Hitler’s second Minister of Economics. Allianz insured Reich factories, barracks, motor pools, ghettos, and death camps — including Auschwitz and Dachau – while Allianz was selling life insurance policies to Jewish families in Europe.

Instead of honoring its insurance policies, Allianz has cynically paid millions of dollars in a massive public relations effort for this golf tournament, sponsorship of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, CNBC, MSNBC, Marketplace Morning Report, and “partnerships” with AAA, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, and others.

Allianz was in secret talks to pay $300 million bid for naming rights to the new Meadowlands stadium in 2008 which were halted by the outrage of New York citizens after the negotiations were revealed.

Outrageously, Allianz continues to spend millions of dollars onWashington lobbyists to block our basic constitutional right to go to federal court to recover for paid up insurance policies of our families which are after all legal contracts our loved ones paid for in good faith.

What other Americans are denied these basic rights? Why is the Obama Administration, not helping us Holocaust survivors get our insurance money back, and instead slamming the doors of the courthouse in our face and supporting Allianz and other insurance profiteers such as Italy’s Generali against us?

Congress must enact legislation this session restoring our full legal rights as U.S. citizens to force these insurance companies to pay their bargained-for debts.

How can it be that the tragedy continues that half of the Holocaust survivors in the United States and worldwide live in poverty, unable to afford food, medicine, dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and home care.

Germany is responsible to care for all survivors, but is forcing survivors to live in misery and protecting Allianz’s Holocaust profits at the same time.

For shame!

WE Holocaust survivors’ demand that Allianz and their affiliates:

  1. Publish the names of all Allianz and affiliates’ insurance policy holders between 1920 and 1945 on the internet.
  2. Publish all insurance records of Nazi German institutions including, the SS, concentration and death camp, and personnel and all other war related business between 1933 and 1945.
  3. Immediately cease any lobbying against Holocaust survivors and heirs to bring legal action in U.S. courts.
  4. Disgorge $2.5 billion, representing its unjust enrichment from unpaid insurance policies from the Holocaust, to be paid to beneficiaries and heirs and to fund social services for Holocaust survivors in need worldwide.

We believe we will receive justice from the American People now to stop these horrible tragedies now.

The sponsoring organizations of the protests were the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (, Shalom International (, and NEXT GENERATIONS (, and Generations of the Shoah, International (

For more information see this 2013 report by Huffington Post Live: .

The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA Executive Committee: 

Israel Arbeiter, Boston MA
Dena Axelrod, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Renee Firestone, Los Angeles, CA
Ella Frumkin, Los Angeles, CA
Nesse Godin, Washington D.C.
Jay Ipson, Richmond, VA
Louise Lawrence-Israels, Washington D.C.
Herbert Karliner, Miami Beach, FL
Annette Lantos, Washington, D.C.
David Mermelstein, Miami FL
Alex Moskovic, Hobe Sound, FL
Leo Rechter, Queens, NY
Jack Rubin, Boynton Beach, FL
David Schaecter, Miami, FL
Anita Schuster, Las Vegas NV
Agnes Vertes, Weston, CT
Esther Widman, Brooklyn NY

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Press release