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Max Goodman

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USA Today. Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Law pushes for cooperation with Holocaust claims

By Gregg Aamot
The Associated Press

St. Paul, Minn – When Max Goodman's father died in Europe 60 years ago, he left his family a life insurance policy worth 1 million Romanian lei.

But Goodman and his Jewish family were never able to collect the money, worth about $5,000 then or $60,000 today.

They were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp in what is now Ukraine until 1945, when he, his mother and sister were freed by Russian soldiers.

Goodman tried to cash in the policy after he was liberated, but dropped the matter when he realized the money would "maybe buy 10 loaves of bread" because of postwar inflation.

Goodman eventually settled in St. Paul, where he lives today with his wife. More than a half-century later, the retired accountant hopes he will finally get his money, with the help of an international commission and a new Minnesota law.

"I never thought of it that I would be able to file a claim," Goodman, 76, said. The law signed by Gov. Jesse Ventura two weeks ago is designed to pressure a handful of European Insurance companies with affliates in Minnesota to cooperate with the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.

It's unclear how many of the estimated 200 to 300 Holocaust survivors in Minnesota will benefit. But the lawmakers who pushed the bill hope that other states will follow suit, creating pressure that uncooperative insurers will find difficult to resist.

"It's a way to get some kind of leverage with these companies," Sen. Allan Spear, a Democrat who sponsored the bill. California and Washington have enacted similar measures.

The Minnesota law allows the state Commerce Department to strip licenses from insurers doing business in Minnesota as long as their parent companies refuse to cooperate with the commission. The department also will help Holocaust survivors by sharing information about claims with the commission and other states, and by possibly creating a registry of Holocaust-related policies.

The commission, created in 1998 is working on behalf of Holocaust victims who owned, were covered by or were the beneficiaries of policies for life insurance, education or dowries issued from 1920-45.

Despite the new law, Goodman still believes his chances of collecting on his father's life insurance policy are slim. Based on a formula that uses a 1938 exchange rate, the 1 million lei policy was worth about $5,000, or about $60,000 today.

The International Commission allows for recovery of 10 times the policy's original value, which would bring the amount to about $50,000.

"So, maybe they'll find something," Goodman said. With a shrug, he said, "I don't put a big hope on it."