Nazi-Controlled Insurance

Over the holiday break, I stumbled across a wonderful book in the library called “Hitler Youth”. The title peaked my curiosity, as I am always interested in what history can teach us about human social groups and psychology. While reading, I unexpectedly discovered a tragic insurance tale within the book – long-forgotten to history…

On November 9 and 10, 1938 Nazi forces and civilians smashed the windows of Jewish synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and hospitals across Germany and Austria. Because so much glass was shattered, the event was called Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass. Over 7,000 businesses were damaged, and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The property destruction amounted to hundreds of millions of reichsmarks, which was enough to alarm German insurance companies that they could be bankrupted. The Nazi leaders couldn’t have German insurance companies going bankrupt and destabilizing their economy, so two days later they forbade the Jews from filing insurance claims.

Now that’s a great example of government 1) ignoring citizens’ right to contract and property rights, and 2) excessively interfering in private business. And those are the nicest things I can say about this incredibly tragic and embarrassing part of our human history.

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