The Rule of Law: Hitler eroded it as an early step toward dictatorship—The Nuremberg Trials restored it

by | Mar 22, 2013 | What’s Happening

Exhibit at ODU: April 2–April 30
Panel discussion at ODU: April 11, 6:30 pm

In 1932, Germany’s Weimar Republic had a democratically elected president and Parliament. The Weimar constitution guaranteed equality before the law, freedom of religion, free speech, and citizens’ rights to acquire property and pursue a trade.

The legal profession was vibrant and diverse. Lawyers represented citizens in courts to protect their rights under the law. In many German cities, a significant portion of the lawyers and judges were Jewish.

Long before the Nazi SS enforcers sent six million Jews and five million other “non-Aryans” to concentration (death) camps, they seized Jewish citizens’ property and stripped their livelihoods. Did the victims of property seizures seek legal recourse in German courts? Did they hire Jewish lawyers to file claims over what was unfairly taken?

Adolf Hitler took measures that prevented those victims from engaging their brethren to seek restoration of their legal rights. In March 1933, the German Parliament relegated full legislative power to Chancellor Hitler. That same month, Hitler issued a decree barring Jewish lawyers and Judges from German courts. Consequently, the legal experts who might have been most likely to represent those Jews who had their property or livelihoods taken were no longer able to do so.

An extraordinary exhibit entitled “Lawyers without Rights: Jewish Lawyers under the Third Reich” chronicles Jewish lawyers who were impacted and the consequences of Hitler’s erosion of the Rule of Law. The exhibit was created by the German Federal Bar to teach the lessons learned from this era and has been shown in more than 80 cities worldwide.

The exhibit will be displayed for public viewing at the Old Dominion University Library from April 2 to April 30 and will move to Virginia Beach for Law Day in May. On April 11, ODU will host a reception and discussion (see article below).

The Virginia Beach Law Day celebration on May 2 will feature a panel discussion with the Honorable U.S. Senior District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. and Sandra Schulberg, who will present actual film excerpts of the Nuremberg Trials, which restored the Rule of Law in Nazi-occupied lands.

Susan R. Blackman, Esq. is a partner at Willcox & Savage, P.C. She is listed in Best Lawyers in America for both Employment Law and Immigration Law. She serves as vice-president of the Federal Bar Association Hampton Roads Chapter, as treasurer of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, and as Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Denmark.

by Susan R. Blackman, Esq.