Berlin Bar Association Chief Honors Jewish Lawyers Persecuted by Nazis

Agreement between Tel Aviv and Berlin bar associations is part of a long-term documentation project, including the stories of Jewish lawyers in Germany during the Holocaust.

 An agreement to probe the persecution of Jewish lawyers in Nazi Germany was signed last week by the bar associations of Tel Aviv and Berlin. The two groups resolved to research, document, exchange information and organize joint conferences on the subject, and to cooperate on human rights issues.

"We want to remember the past and cherish the memories of our Jewish colleagues who were persecuted by the Nazis, and to honor them," Irene Schmid, who chairs the Berlin Bar Association, told Haaretz at Tuesday's signing in Tel Aviv. "We want to pass on their memory to the coming generations and prevent Holocaust denial," Schmid added. Also present were Effi Naveh, chairman of the Israel Bar Association's Tel Aviv district, director general of the Justice Ministry Guy Rottkopf and German ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis.

A new book is now in preparation in Germany documenting the fate of the Jewish lawyers in Berlin after the Holocaust. "Many of them, about 160, went back to work in Berlin," Schmid said.

The book and the agreement between the Tel Aviv and Berlin bar associations are part of a long-term documentation project, which includes an exhibit that has been presented internationally in recent years and a series of books, telling the stories of Jewish lawyers in Germany during the Holocaust.

The man who started the project is Ramat Gan attorney Yoel Levy. Last year he brought Axel Filges, the head of the German bar association, to Israel. At a moving ceremony at Yad Vashem, Filges recognized the responsibility of the German bar association for the actions of its members during the Nazi period.

"The German bar association was the first to recognize the moral responsibility of current attorneys for the actions of their forefathers.

German lawyers today will have to rummage through the files of their fathers and grandfathers and see what part they played at the time, how they behaved toward their Jewish colleagues; whether they were members of the Nazi Party and to what extent," Levy said.

There were 4,000 Jewish lawyers in Germany in 1933 with the rise of the Third Reich, constituting about 20 percent of all attorneys in the country. They held high office in the courts, the justice ministry and the bar association until a series of discriminatory laws disenfranchised them beginning in 1933.

Some 130 German Jewish lawyers immigrated to Israel after the Holocaust and played an important role in the early state.