Holocaust Survivors Continue to Look to NYLAG for Support

NYLAG’s Holocaust Compensation Assistance Project began in May 2000, just as many new compensation programs were being established. During its first years, NYLAG helped survivors complete applications for the German Slave Labor Fund, the Swiss Banks Settlement, and insurance compensation through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, among other programs. More recently, NYLAG has helped survivors submit applications for pensions for work in a ghetto and complete a form that provides survivors who worked in a ghetto a one-time payment of 2,000 Euros. When an application is unfairly denied, NYLAG will file appeals, in a secondary effort to enable survivors to receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

It is NYLAG’s practice to help survivors throughout the United States, as well as in Canada and occasionally in Europe and Israel. NYLAG’s lawyers have a broad understanding of all the programs available to survivors and a true sensitivity to the fact that completing a form for compensation can be an emotionally upsetting experience. Phyllis Brochstein, a NYLAG attorney who works with many Holocaust survivors notes, “There are some survivors who only want to answer the questions asked and not provide additional information about their suffering, and others who need to talk in detail about what happened to them during the Holocaust.” Through years of experience, NYLAG attorneys have learned to take cues from the survivors themselves as to what, if any, extraneous questions should be asked during an application process. It is the firm knowledge of the entire compensation framework and the sensitivity to an individual survivor’s needs that make NYLAG unique among legal service offices that provide free assistance to Holocaust survivors.

Many of NYLAG’s successes in this project have been “hard fought.” For example, a survivor named Mrs. D. applied to the Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT), the entity that administers the Swiss Banks Settlement, claiming that her mother, who died in Auschwitz, had a bank account in Switzerland. Initially, the CRT denied the claim, alleging that Mrs. D’s mother’s name was not exactly the same name as an Account Owner’s. (The mother had a double first name and was most often called by one name, while the Account Owner was listed under the other name). During the many months of the appeal process, NYLAG was able to establish that Mrs. D’s mother did, indeed, have two first names. The CRT then alleged that someone who perished during the Holocaust, with the same name as Mrs. D’s mother, was the true Account Owner, further complicating the case. Finally, with much NYLAG intervention, the CRT awarded Mrs. D. almost $50,000, deciding that the woman with the same name as Mrs. D’s mother, was Mrs. D’s relative, thereby entitling her to compensation. When the award was made, Mrs. D., the sole survivor from her large family, was in her eighties and in poor health, as was her husband. She was immensely grateful for the assistance she received from NYLAG and especially appreciative of the perseverance of all of the NYLAG staff involved in helping her.

Funding for this NYLAG program is generously provided from UJAFederation of New York through its Community Initiative for Nazi Services. For more information on the Holocaust Compensation Assistance Program please contact Phyllis Brochstein, Esq. at [email protected] or 212.613.5041.