NEW ORLEANS — The exhibit "Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany under the Third Reich" opens on April 28 at the Louisiana Supreme Court Museum on Royal Street.
The exhibit tells the story of how Jewish attorneys and judges were persecuted in Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power in the 1930s. It has been shown in more than 40 cities in the United States.
“It’s a very compelling exhibit that has been exhibited throughout Europe and also throughout much of the United States, but this is the first time it has ever been brought to Louisiana," Mark Cunningham, an attorney at Jones Day who brought the exhibit to Louisiana, said.
The exhibit started in 1998 as the brainchild of a lawyer in Israel who knew there was a list in Berlin of lawyers whose licenses to practice had been revoked by the Nazis. The regional bar in Berlin provided the list, researched individual stories and helped compose the exhibit. Axel Filges of the Berlin Bar took over the exhibit and many local bar associations added to it.
The exhibit includes very large banners which depict photos and stories about particular judges or lawyers, and the banners include information about how the Jewish lawyers and judges were persecuted during that time period.
“It’s hard not to be drawn into the exhibit because it tells the stories from a very personal perspective of the individual people, the lives that they were leading and how those lives were disrupted," Cunningham told the Louisiana Record. "Sometimes those lives ended in murder, and other times people were able to escape. Oftentimes they escaped to the United States. Some of the daughters and sons of the survivors have seen the exhibit and spoken up. There’s a great story of a federal judge who spoke when it was exhibited in Washington D.C., and she spoke about how her father had been a judge in Germany and how he had lost his job. They emigrated to the United States, but he was never able to practice law again but raised his daughter and she went to law school and became a federal court judge.”
In 2012, the exhibit came to the U.S. There are currently two exhibits in the U.S. under the aegis of the American Bar Association and the German Federal Bar.
Cunningham said the impetus was to get the exhibit shown locally.
“I was president of the Louisiana State Bar last year and in that capacity came across this exhibit and thought that it would be a very good opportunity to highlight the role lawyers and bar associations play, not just in promoting the role of law, but also the exhibit does a very good job of showing what happens when lawyers and bar associations and judges really don’t take up for each other," Cunningham said. “What happened in Germany, what the exhibit shows, of the Jewish lawyers and judges who were persecuted were really left alone. The other lawyers and judges in Germany at the time did not stand up for their colleagues who were excluded from the profession."
Cunningham said he saw the exhibit recently, when it was exhibited for one night.
“The exhibit was sent to me by the American Bar Association in a very large crate," he said. "We put up the exhibit for the first time just this past Sunday for the Yom Hashoah program at the JCC [Jewish Community Center]. Sunday night [April 23] was the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust and every year the JCC does a program. We were able to put up the exhibit as part of that program.”
The exhibit "Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany under the Third Reich," will run until May 31. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and admission is free.
After the exhibition at the Louisiana Supreme Court, the exhibit will be moved to the Louisiana State Bar Association and Judicial College’s joint summer program and annual meeting that "brings together all Louisiana lawyers and judges from across the state to a single location,” Cunningham said.