LEGAL HISTORY

Holocaust program focuses on impact of lawyers’ silence

Lawyers Elizabeth Holtzman of New York and Katarina Barley of Germany represent different generations and markedly different backgrounds. But at the American Bar Association program, “Legal Lessons from the Holocaust: When Lawyers Remain Silent,” the two made a similar point: anti-Semitism is growing and lawyers cannot stand by idly today as non-Jewish lawyers did in Germany before the Holocaust.

Panelists (L to R) Michael Tigar, Katarina Barley and Elizabeth Holtzman participate in the Feb. 7 keynote panel with moderator Dan Abrams.

Panelists (L to R) Michael Tigar, Katarina Barley and Elizabeth Holtzman participate in the Feb. 7 keynote panel with moderator Dan Abrams.

The February 7 program at the New York City Bar celebrated the release of the ABA book, “Lawyers Without Rights: The Fate of Jewish Lawyers in Berlin after 1933.” Speaking to nearly 200 attendees, Holtzman, a former member of the U.S. Congress, and Barley, the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, urged lawyers to speak up — a message delivered by other speakers on the program, including ABA President Bob Carlson and renowned attorney Michael Tigar, who has represented numerous unpopular clients and causes.

“When you have bigotry rearing its ugly head, Jews may not be the first ones on the list, but if there’s a list, we’re on it. So, you put Muslims on a list, Jews are gonna be hurt, too,” Holtzman said.

Holtzman entered Congress in 1973, when Barley was 4 years old. But the German minister echoed a similar theme.

“It is something that is happening all over the world,” Barley said. “The European Union just did a survey, and in all of the member states anti-Semitism has risen considerably, and Jews feel more insecure than they did a few years ago.”

She observed that as the generation of Holocaust survivors is lost, so are important memories.

“The more you lose them, the more it seems far away,” she continued. “But it is not far away. It can happen again. … It’s not only about anti-Semitism, it is about the question of respect and humanity, and it concerns everybody. So, it is the duty of everybody to speak up.”

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