If you don’t read the sports pages it’s likely you missed an important, disturbing story. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the “naming rights” to the new Giants and Jets football stadium may be sold to Allianz, the German insurance company. During the Holocaust, Allianz notoriously reneged on payouts of life insurance policies to Jewish beneficiaries and survivors, even handing over that withheld cash to the Nazis.
Allianz also, the Times pointed out, “insured facilities and personnel and concentration camps like Auschwitz and Dachau.” It insured engineers at I.G. Farben, the chemical company that made Zyklon B, used in the gas chambers. And it had a more intimate connection with the Reich. According to the Times, “Kurt Schmitt, its chief executive in the 1930s, served as Hitler’s second economics minister and can be seen in a photograph from a rally wearing an SS-OberfÃ¼hrer’s uniform and delivering a Nazi salute with Hitler standing in front of him.”
Of course, so many German businesses collaborated with the Nazis, and we cut some of them some slack because they apologize, make reparations – and have what we want. We drive Volkswagens, for instance, and Mercedes.
Allianz has apologized, although a little late and under considerable U.S. pressure. In the 1990s, again under pressure from the United States and Jewish organizations, it made compensation – about $12 million, nowhere near enough, and there can never be enough – through the International Commission on Holocaust Insurance Claims.
Allianz has certainly thrived since those dark times. Now Germany’s largest private insurer, it has money to burn, if we may say so, if it wants to banner its name high across one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.
And that, we feel, is highly insensitive. As Elan Steinberg, a vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, has pointed out, “Survivors are still alive. It would not be appropriate to affix the Allianz name to a stadium in an area where a lot of survivors are still living.”
What will it cost Allianz to brand its name across the new stadium? Some $20 million to $30 million. Meanwhile, many survivors across the globe are frail, elderly, and poor. We can think of far better, more appropriate uses for that money.