Cooley Godward Kronish, a law firm located in UTC, is coordinating free legal assistance from four San Diego-area practices for Holocaust survivors applying for reparation from the German government’s Ghetto Work Payment Program.
“The reason for the program is the application is very technical,” said Samantha Lapine, an associate at Cooley Godward Kronish who is coordinating the program with partner Michael S. Levinson. "(The program) had a huge denial rate.”
The Ghetto Work Payment Program is the result of negotiations between the United States, Israel and the German government and provides approximately $3,000 in financial compensation.
Under the program’s guidelines, individuals must have worked in a German-controlled ghetto on a “voluntary” basis.
Lapine said program administrators are asking for very little evidence because of the lack of documentation.
“It’s really just recollections from survivors,” Lapine said, adding that, for many, the process seems therapeutic. “It gives a lot of them a chance to tell their story to someone. It’s an acknowledgement of the harm done.”
Attorneys from the four law firms are working with applicants via screening clinics and one-on-one consultations. Clinics are scheduled at various locations around the county for July 30, Aug. 4 and 12. Pre-registration is required.
Approximately 68 survivors have responded to the law firm’s offer of assistance thus far. Lapine has personally interviewed five Jewish Holocaust survivors, admitting that it’s hard to listen to the accounts.
“The amount of evil is disturbing,” she said, “but the amount of good is also inspiring.”
For every act of cruelty, people told of acts of bravery, daring and heroism.
Lapine said many of the individuals she has worked with seem to have moved on past this part of their lives and there is very little anger. Some individuals have told Lapine they plan to donate their compensation to charity.
“It seems like 75 percent are going to qualify,” said Lapine.
Cooley Godward Kronish is working with local agencies and synagogs to let Jewish citizens know about the program.
“Our main goal is just to get the word out that we’re offering free legal aid,” Lapine said. “We don’t want to miss a single person we can help.
“We are helping anyone who lives in San Diego, but we have a list to refer them to if they live in another location.”
A law firm in Los Angeles was the first to offer pro bono assistance. In the past year, they have worked with more than 600 survivors.
Lapine said there is some urgency to getting application filed under the Ghetto Work Payment Program as only living survivors are eligible and reparation funds are limited. She said thousands could qualify under this program.
For more information about the Ghetto Work Payment Program and applying for reparation, call Cooley Godward Kronish at (858) 550-6494.