Thursday, September 11, 2008

Allianz Stadium

The NY Daily News says that Allianz is the leading contender to win the naming rights of the new football stadium for the NY Giants & NY Jets. This has upset Holocaust survivors, Jewish groups and fans of the two teams.

Frankly, I don't know what to make of this. I don't know enough of the history to assess whether Allianz's role in the Third Reich was greater than other big German companies or would all such German companies - Volkswagen, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, etd. - be equally opposed. I'm also not going to tell people what they can or cannot be offended by.

However, I would like to know if a company can ever overcome being associated with such evil. The News says that Allianz insured Auschwitz and "refused to pay off life insurance stipends to Jews and sent their policies' proceeds to the Nazis instead". The News also says that Allianz "has acknowledged its shameful past and has shelled out millions in restitution".

I know that in law a company is a legal person, but I guess to my mind it's the people who run and work for the company who are really responsible for what the company does. Without people a company is an empty shell, just a name.
Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, secretary general of the North American Board of Rabbis, agreed that although survivors' sensibilities are understandable, a naming deal is legit.

"I have found Allianz to be receptive, to be sensitive and a friend of the Jewish people today," he said.

"We need not live in the past."
The words of Rabbi Rosenbaum leads me to believe that, yes, a company can live down its past, but for those who survived the Holocaust the name Allianz - regardless of what the company is today - may simply be too stark a reminder.