American Bar Association, German Federal Bar Host “Lawyers Without Rights” Exhibit in Chicago
An important exhibit on Jewish lawyers in Nazi Germany is open to the public until April 8 at the American Bar Association headquarters in downtown Chicago. Created by the German Federal Bar, “Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany Under the Third Reich” tells the story of how the Hitler regime banned Jewish lawyers from practicing law in 1938, and the damage the ban caused to the legal profession and to the generational practice of law by German-Jewish families.
Celebrating the opening of the exhibit on March 11, lawyers from across the city and the country gathered for a kickoff reception hosted by the ABA. Representatives from the German Federal Bar were in attendance, as well as the German general counsel of Chicago, Onno Hückmann.
“This exhibition reflects a time when the rule of law was utterly neglected,” said Axel C. Filges, the president of the German Federal Bar. “I am pleased and thankful that the ABA is hosting this exhibit, as lawyers are frontliners in the war against injustice.”
The exhibit traces events beginning on January 30, 1933, when Paul von Hindenburg granted power to Adolf Hilter, ending the peaceful times of the Weimar Republic. At that time, more than half of the 3,400 lawyers in Berlin were Jewish. And in 1938, the decision to ban all Jewish lawyers from practicing law was implemented.
“These people dedicated their lives to a system that later deprived them of their rights as lawyers and as humans,” said Hückmann. “But there is also hope as Germany has the fastest growing Jewish population in Europe.”
Looking to shed light on the travesty, the German Federal Bar created the traveling exhibit. Since it was first displayed in 2000, the exhibit has been shown in more than 70 cities across Germany and all over the world, including Israel. A recent partnership of ABA President Stephen N. Zack, the ABA Section of International Law and the German Federal Bar brought the exhibit to Chicago.
At the kickoff event, Linda Klein, chair of the ABA House of Delegates noted, “It would be easy to sweep these narratives under the rug and try to forget because it’s embarrassing and painful, but we shouldn’t and we can’t. I salute the German Federal Bar for sharing this exhibit, so we will not forget. So as lawyers, we realize that if lawyers don’t speak out against injustice, who will?”
“Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany Under the Third Reich,” is currently on display in the lobby of the ABA headquarters, located at 321 N. Clark Street in Chicago. This free exhibit is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will run until April 8.