Obtaining Reparations for Holocaust Survivors
Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Sveltlana Ismailov, one of the caseworkers at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Published: December 25, 2006

“Let me show you something,” Sveltlana Ismailov said as she dipped a hand inside the bottom left drawer of her desk. Ms. Ismailov, 70, a caseworker at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, pulled out a booklet of receipts and a manila folder with “Germany” written on it and underlined with a black marker.

As she flipped through the booklet, names like Janna Goldvary, Zi Popolskaya and Alexander Gilman flashed by. They and the others are Holocaust survivors who have donated money to the community house.

She has helped them get reparations of close to $2,500 or a monthly pension from the German government.

“Here is only some of them; I have many books of that kind,” she said, with a heavy Russian lilt. Using maps, lists of Nazi concentration camps and a person’s recollections, she has pieced together these survivors’ experiences to help them apply for compensation from Germany.

This is only one of the many social services that Ms. Ismailov offers at the Jewish Community House, which is a beneficiary of the UJA-Federation of New York, one of the seven agencies supported by the Neediest Cases.

She sees about 1,500 people a year, and 80 to 90 percent are from Russia and the other former Soviet republics, she said. Most do not speak English. “Hardship, hardship, hardship” is what she hears from her clients.

She says that Neediest Cases money enables her to assist the community’s poor, many of whom are immigrants trying to establish themselves in America.