Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_Apr 2014

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42 Whenever Jay Ipson, a founder and president emeritus of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, asks me to lunch I know he has something big planned. One of those lunches in 2002 ended with me wearing a hardhat and helping to gut the massive building that is now the Virginia Holocaust Museum. At this particular lunch in fall 2013, Jay and his wife, Ellie, told me they and the American Bar Association were collaborating to bring an exhibi- tion to Richmond titled "Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany under the Third Reich." Jay's grandson, Ben, saw the exhibit at Old Dominion University where he is a student and told his grandfather it should come to Richmond. They wanted the exhibit to be dis- played in the art gallery of the Gay Community Center with various receptions and panels ensu- ing while it was there. I immediately signed on. The exhibit portrays the collective fate of Jewish lawyers in Nazi Germany by focusing on the stories of twenty-one lawyers and judges. The exhibit was conceived in 1998 when an Israeli lawyer asked the regional bar of Berlin for a list of Jewish lawyers whose licenses had been revoked by the Nazi regime. "The regional bar decided not only to research a list of names but also to try to find out more about the fates behind all those names," says Axel Filges, president of the German Federal Bar. "Some were able to leave the country after the Nazis came into power, but very many of them were incarcerated or murdered. The non- Jewish German lawyers of those days remained silent. They failed miserably, and so did the lawyers' organizations. We do not know why." 1 Jay Ipson believes one reason nothing was done was because it was going to make room for non-Jewish lawyers to take their place. With Germany being in the throes of a massive depres- sion, he reasons, people simply did not care. What brought this exhibition "home," was that Jay Ipson's father was an attorney in Lithuania who found himself without a law license and a profession in the course of one day. Jay therefore created his own panel for the exhibit telling the story of his father to stand side by side with the original panels. Jay, now a Holocaust history lecturer, with the help of his wife, his daughter Esther, and his grandchildren, partnered with Dianna Gabay, for- mer curator for the Virginia Holocaust Museum; Patty O'Connor, English teacher and Holocaust lecturer; Bill Choyke, senior strategist for the American Bar Association; and myself, a trustee of the Virginia Holocaust Museum. Two successful programs were mounted dur- ing the exhibit's tenure in Richmond. The first was a panel discussion on January 15, 2014, with Jay, constitutional law professor John Paul Jones of the University of Richmond's T.C. Williams School of Law, and the Honorable Tracy W. Thorne-Begland, the first openly gay jurist elected by the Virginia General Assembly. The presenta- tion reaffirmed the relevancy of the Holocaust's lessons by exploring how today's rule of law could be threatened. Some themes include: "Education cuts both ways," "Stress and emergency challenges a society's commitment to justice," "The state must not only tolerate dissidence, it must foster it," and "Society must know the difference between what is legal, and what is right." The second program was arranged by Matthew Zwerdling, program chair of the Lewis F. Powell Jr. American Inn of Court. Jay Ipson delivered a presentation to the Inn and invited www.vsb.org VIRGINIA LAWYER | April 2014 | Vol. 62 | GENERAL INTEREST FEATURES Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers In Germany Under the Third Reich by Brett Alexander Zwerdling April2014VL_vl0414 4/3/14 11:21 AM Page 42

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