New ABA book details Nazi purge of Jewish lawyers in Berlin

A new book released by ABA Publishing captures how Nazi Germany systematically undermined fair and just law through humiliation, degradation and legislation, which led to the expulsion of Jewish lawyers and jurists from the legal profession from 1933-38.

Lawyers Without Rights: The Fate of Jewish Lawyers in Berlin after 1933”  chronicles what can happen when the just rule of law is replaced by an arbitrary rule by law that sweeps aside the rights and dignity of selected populations. First published in German two decades ago and updated in 2007, the book includes three significant additions — forewords from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer; Benjamin B. Ferencz, at 99 years old the sole surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials; and Ronald D. Abramson, a Jewish lawyer and philanthropist whose family foundation, the Anne and Ronald Abramson Family Foundation, provided underwriting for the book.

The English translation is an expansion of a joint project between the ABA and the Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer (German Federal Bar). Since 2012, the two bar associations have sponsored the exhibit, Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany under the Third Reich, a project of the ABA Center for Human Rights. The book covers the series of German occupational bans and the fate of more than 1,600 lawyers in Berlin who could no longer practice law after 1938 because of their Jewish ancestry. It was released to coincide with the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when Nazis torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938.

“The story of these lawyers in Berlin and all of Germany is more than a historical footnote; it is a wake-up call that a system of justice free of improper political considerations remains fragile and should never be taken for granted,” ABA President Bob Carlson said. “When lawyers, the judicial system and the just rule of law are undermined, when the abuses go unchecked and are permitted to flourish, only great tragedy can follow.”

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