The annual dinner here of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which provides financial aid to more than 600 non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, was picketed Tuesday — by Holocaust survivors.
The survivors made it clear that they were not protesting the foundation, whose mission they said they applauded, but rather the group’s decision to honor the German insurance giant Allianz. The guest of honor at the dinner, Peter Lefkin, a senior vice president of Allianz North America, received the organization’s Recognition of Goodness Award.
Carrying signs that read, “Allianz is still a Nazi criminal organization” and “Allianz Refuses to Pay Jewish Policy Holders,” more than 25 survivors and their supporters marched in front of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
“We also gave out about 500 flyers, but we believe those attending the event refused to take it,” said Leo Rechter, president of the National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors.
“Some other people stopped and talked to us,” said Rechter, 86. “We explained that we were not demonstrating against Lefkin but that he represents an organization that refuses to live up to its financial obligations. It has paid only about 1 percent of what statisticians say it should pay [on life insurance policies it wrote for Jews killed in the Holocaust].”
Allianz has insisted that it participated fully in a Holocaust claims process that sought to resolve all outstanding claims.
Some passersby suggested that the issue should no longer be pursued because the Holocaust occurred so many years ago.
“We then asked them if efforts to look for Nazi war criminals should be ended,” Rechter said.
“Others told us that Lefkin never killed anybody,” he added. “So does that mean we should honor Bernie Madoff because he only swindled people out of millions of dollars and didn’t kill anyone? Those are flawed arguments.”
Asked what he believes the demonstration accomplished, Rechter replied: “People will know we will not take such a thing lying down — that neither they nor any other Jewish organization should honor officials of Allianz.
“We are against Allianz, a company that refused to live up to its financial obligations.”
“We have nothing against Germany,” he hastened to add. “Chancellor Angela Merkel is reasonably good to survivors. Again, we were not demonstrating against Lefin but against a Allianz, the company that refuses to live up to its financial obligations.”