News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
BRAMA, Apr. 21, 2000, 3:00pm EST
|Ukrainian Forced/Slave Labor Class Action Litigation
Myroslaw Smorodsky, P.A.
A Partnership of Professional Corporations
counsellors at law
75 Union Ave., p.o.box 1705
Rutherford, New Jersey 07070-1705
fax: (201) 507-3970
Rutherford, NJ - Recently, various organizations and individuals in the West have been soliciting former slave/forced laborers requesting to represent the victims in filing their claims to compensation for their suffering as slave forced/laborers under Nazi rule. These organizations and individuals have demanded a service fee ranging from 10% to 40% of the ultimate payment to the victim. Some also require that the victims sign irrevocable proxies giving these organizations the absolute right to act and receive payments on the victims’ behalf. Implicit in these unauthorized solicitations is a statement that unless the former slave laborers act immediately they will lose their rights. These organizations in their solicitations also imply that they have the approval of the parties and lawyers that negotiated the Class Action Settlement and/or the German Government.
These solicitations are not approved by the Class Action negotiators, nor the US Courts, nor the German Government, and run totally contrary to the underlying premise of the Settlement Agreement that has been reached by the victims’ lawyers and representatives and German negotiators. The Settlement Agreement envisions that NO FEES will be charged to the individual victims and no organization has been authorized to make any applications on behalf of individual victims.
Before payments to victims can begin, the German Parliament must adopt the appropriate legislation to monetarily fund the settlement. In addition, a procedure for registration and verification of claims, especially in the West, must be developed and implemented. There will be an official worldwide notification and registration process during which forced/slave labor victims must register their claims. This notification and claims period is yet to begin. Optimistically, payments can begin late this year or in early 2001. This entire process will be governed by a German Foundation, which will establish eligibility rules and rules governing the entire claims procedure.
The Victims’ negotiators and the German Government are presently establishing the official structure – The German Foundation - that will be responsible for accepting all applications for victims in the West. Victims who reside in the Central and East European countries will receive the proceeds of the settlement from existing Reconciliation Foundations that already exist in each country. Jewish victims that reside in the West will be paid through the Jewish Material Claims Conference. The information from victims that is being gathered by Class Action lawyers such as Myroslaw Smorodsky of Smorodsky & Stawnychy will be given to German Foundation once it is established so that these individuals can be notified directly of the claims process once it is established.
The following are answers to frequently asked questions that you may find helpful.
How will a Slave/Forced Laborer prove that he/she was a forced laborer?
Everyone realizes that in the aftermath of the war and after the passage of over 55 years, the victims have lost many of their valuable papers. Therefore, in all probability, strict evidence rules will be relaxed substantially. The German Foundation that will be overseeing the distribution of the funds will establish the criteria. However, it would be very beneficial if you retain any papers such as work papers, passports, photos, letters etc. and other memorabilia of your experience as a forced laborer. You should also reduce to writing your impressions and memories such as the names of the companies where you were employed and other details of your experience.
Who will pay the attorneys’ fees of the Class Action Lawyers and how much?
In this case, 200 million DM has been set aside for The German Foundation that will supervise the distribution process as administration costs, which includes attorney fees, worldwide notification and the registration process. The lawyers in all of the 56 class action cases will be paid taking into consideration the amount of time devoted to the case, the novelty of the issues, and each lawyer’s contribution to the result. Attorney's fees are never decided nor negotiated until the amount that the class is to receive is determined. Legal fees will not come from the amount designated to be received by each individual victim.
What are the present categories of slave/forced laborers?
The categories are:
How much will the forced laborers get?
Slave laborers will receive up to 15,000 Deutsche marks each. Forced laborers in industrial establishments and the other camps will receive up to 5,000 Deutsche marks each: and farm workers or persons who worked for private persons will receive up to 1,000 Deutsche marks each. The final amount will depend upon the number of claimants that will register and qualify.
Will the heirs of the forced laborers receive any compensation?
Since most of the victims of forced/slave labor are dead and since their heirs are so numerous, meaningful compensation to each is not feasible. The Settlement Agreement includes plans to develop a "Future Fund" which will give some meaningful assistance to the forced labor heirs through various programs and also initiate permanently funded programs that will have as their goal the prevention of a repetition of the atrocities of World War II.
If a forced laborer is receiving other compensation in the form of a pension, will that amount be deducted from the amount he/she will receive as a result of this litigation settlement?
Other payments, such as pension payments, will not be deducted from the amount received by any member of the class.
For further information, please call Myroslaw Smorodsky at the number listed above.
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