At the end of my first year of law school, I had the opportunity to work on legal issues surrounding Holocaust reparations still being paid by the German government. It was an incredible experience, recounted here:
Assisting Holocaust survivors in their claim for ghetto pensions this summer wasn’t as challenging as feeling comfortable in Kevin MacDonald’s office nor as fanboy-fun as profiling Jordan Farmar. I spent much of my time speaking with survivors and worked primarily on cases that either required further information or that were being appealed. I also spent a few weeks on work related to the underlying network of pro bono attorneys participating in the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, which has assisted thousands of survivors in applying for ghetto pensions.
Many of the survivors I spoke with (not the attorneys) suffer from dementia or the consequences of stroke or lingering trauma that impairs their memory, so pulling important details about their experience in the Holocaust was no small feat. It was also, at times, emotionally exhausting.
Without getting into specifics, let’s just say that most of the survivors I spoke with were among the only members of their family to make it out alive. Now well into their 80s, some their 90s, they may have outlived their spouse and are living in desperate poverty.
It was that last line that drew me to the summer posiiton at Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Many Holocaust survivors, in Los Angeles and beyond, have been "living a new nightmare" of poverty, and reparations would help, albeit not enough. Moreover, the remaining survivors in 2010 were no younger than 65; most were in their 80s and 90s, many with flagging health. I knew that survivors -- not a survivor, but any survivors -- would not be around much longer. And I wanted to hear their stories one more time.
I was reminded of this last week when Tablet published "Soon There Will Be No More Survivors." In the vein of NPR's StoryCorps, this feature gives nine survivors a face and the platform to tell their stories. It's a beautiful thing.
Take a look and listen here.