Nazi Holocaust survivors and the heirs of its victims are to have claims for unpaid insurance policies resolved by an international committee.

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims has this week begun contacting more than 10,000 Jewish and other survivor organisations around the world.

The claims relate to unpaid life, education and dowry policies issued between 1920 and 1945.

Several insurers are members of the commission including Allianz, Axa, Generali, Winterthur Leben and Zurich Financial Services. They are thought to represent up to 30% of potential UK claimants.

A statement issued on Tuesday said: "We the five major European insurance companies who are members of the ICHEIC are committed to a fair and just resolution of the claims process. We have also agreed to establish a humanitarian fund."

Launching the commission's efforts to trace beneficiaries in Washington on Tuesday, its chairman, former US secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger said: "Our direct responsibility is to pay claims belonging to Holocaust era victims throughout the world."

He added: "Co-operation among insurance companies, Jewish groups, insurance regulators and government entities has resulted in an unprecedented process to swiftly investigate and pay legitimate claims."

Insurance companies participating in the scheme are to relax the standards of proof required of laimants. And an independent auditing process has been begun to review relevant records and archives.

Claims relating to policies issued by insurance companies will be forwarded to those companies for review with the request that they honour claims in line with ICHEIC standards.

A separate humanitarian fund set up by the commission will address claims for policies issued by now defunct companies.

The commission's initial attempts at tracing beneficiaries will involve advertisements in Jewish publications, the internet and meetings in 70 countries over the next four months.

Bobby Brown, official representative of the state of Israel, endorsed the commission's work.

He said: "Although we have had to overcome many difficulties and spend over a year in negotiations, we consider it a great moral victory that Holocaust victims and their families, will have their claims honoured."

Claimants in the UK can contact the commission on freephone 0800 169 8318.