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Carrie A. Goldberg @cagoldberglaw
, 18 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Twitter may not be the most effective place to solicit for this, but if you (or, more likely, your parents, grandparents, great grandparents) did forced labor during WW2 for ghettos under German control, please read this. #Thread
Back in 1997 there was a landmark case in Germany that determined that people who'd labored in the Lodz Ghetto would get credit toward German Social Security for that work.
In 2002, Germany codified it and said that forced laborers in any ghetto under German control were eligible. At the time (2000-2005), my full time job was as a case manager to Holocaust survivors and Nazi Victims. I did stuff like take them to the doctor, pluck their chin
hairs, order them walkers, help them enroll in kafka-esque Medicare drug plans, led a weekly memoir writing class, and after 9/11 a current events group. I'd deliver them food on Rosh H'Shonah, sit by them at hospice, and make pleas to their synagogues for $$ for proper burials.
A lot of the time, I'd just shoot the shit with them at their kitchen tables and tell them what 20-somethings were up to downtown in the early 00's, let them tell me how impractical my shoes were, and listen to the hellish memories they didn't want to burden their families with.
During that job, I became obsessive about trying to get them restitution money. There were a bunch of new reparation programs in the early 2000s -- money for medical experiments, stolen art, accounts in Swiss banks.
The idea of paying these piddly amounts -- I think my clients who survived Mengele experiments got $2500 each -- for such monstrous suffering was awakening. My clients felt conflicted about the money, called it blood money, but took it anyway b/c they were practical people.
It was grossly inadequate based on the suffering. Insulting to them. I went to law school at night during this time because I was mesmerized by the idea of financial justice -- this macabre idea that if somebody causes you to suffer, somebody needs to pay for it.
I got my clients lots of money. Money they hated. Money that wouldn't undo the hell or give them back their family, lives, innocence, dignity. Money that wasn't even enough for them to get creature comforts from. I also figured out how to shield all their restitution from US tax.
Millions and millions of holocaust restitution I helped them get and sheltered. In retrospect, I was pretty kick-ass in my early 20s. When I wasn't at work (or law school), I was high, drunk or sleep. Because there's really no other way to deal with that heaviness at that age.
My friends had cool jobs as assistants at Conde Nast and art galleries in Chelsea. But I was addicted to my job and couldn't leave. So, anyway, today, I was randomly looking back at some of the restitution programs I was most involved in.
The ghetto pension was one. I was very frustrated with Germany on that one because their decision making was so arbitrary. I had three clients who had all labored together at the same polish airfield in the 40's. They'd stayed friends when they all discovered they'd
survived and immigrated to NY. When I applied in 2002 or 2003 for the German pension for them, one got like $22k and ongoing monthly money, another one got like 1/4th of that and the third was denied altogether. We appealed and it went up the courts in Germany.
For other clients, Germany would deny the applications because they'd say the forced labor was outside the ghetto walls or a few months before the particular place was designated (by them) as a ghetto. It was so upsetting.
So having left the job in 2005 and doing nothing at all related to that type of work, I saw today that the German Court for Social Affairs extended conditions for eligibility. And that in 2014 the Ghetto Law was changed and now was retroactive to 1997 for those paid later.
When I left the job in 2005, it was heartbreaking. I loved many of my clients, but it was an agency rule that we weren't allowed to continue communicating with them. I broke that rule many times, talked to them on the phone, snuck visits, went to their funerals.
But I lost contact with the group I applied for ghetto pensions for. It may seem pretty far afield from the type of law I practice now, but it's still about financial justice (usually inadequate) for suffering.
In conclusion, my firm would be happy to help any ghetto laborer apply for a ghetto pension or increase. It's probably well too late for most, just as all Holocaust restitution came too late, but I'm a lawyer now and can maybe help more. Just no more chin hair plucking. #Done
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