More than 70 years after its horrors unfolded, the Holocaust still has stories to reveal and lessons to share. This exhibit provided a portrait of the fate of Jewish lawyers in Germany — stories that speak to how the Nazis purged Jewish lawyers as one of the early steps to attack the rule of law in their country.
On Jan. 30, 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg reluctantly named Adolf Hitler to the post of Chancellor of Germany. Not even 2 months later one of the most impactful actions to destroy the rule of law was taken: Jewish judges, prosecutors and lawyers were disbarred and denied access to the courts. Individual rights and the supremacy of the law began to disappear and the distinction between Jews and non-Jews was made for all aspects of social and professional life. Even today, it is not understood why other lawyers tolerated this early action. Given that most records were destroyed, all we have is the stories of those who survived.
The exhibit, first displayed in the year 2000 was sponsored and underwritten by the German Federal Bar, the Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer, and has been presented in 70 countries. It is shown in the United States in collaboration with the American Bar Association. The exhibit is a series of stories that for the first time showcases the atrocities committed against German lawyers who happened to be Jewish. With most documentation destroyed, this may be the only window into the destruction of the rule of law and the abuses to rights and lives of the Jewish people.