October 26, 2023

The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (Catholic Law) hosted the opening of a cosponsored exhibit entitled “German Women Jewish Lawyers in the Third Reich” on Wednesday, October 18. Catholic Law was joined by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Deutscher Juristinnenbund (“German Women Lawyers Association”) in sponsoring this exhibit.

Mary Smith, Esq., President of the American Bar AssociationThis exhibition, which includes biographical panels currently displayed in the Louise H. Keelty and James Keelty, Jr. Atrium, examines the lives and experiences of seventeen Jewish women who practiced law in Germany prior to 1945. These women were pioneers who spearheaded the creation of the legal profession in the Weimar Republic, thus suffering at the hands of the Third Reich. Those who were not murdered immigrated either to the United Kingdom or the United States, in the process unequivocally struggling to recreate their careers in the legal profession. The descendants of some of these women participated in a panel discussion moderated by American University's director of its Jewish Studies Program, Dr. Lauren B. Strauss.

descendants panelWednesday afternoon’s event began with introductory remarks by Stephen C. Payne, dean of Catholic Law; Mary Smith, Esq., President of the American Bar Association; and the Hon. Dr. Annette Weerth, legal advisor of the German Embassy. A brief presentation on the history of the German legal profession before and during the Third Reich was then provided by visiting Case Western professor Kenneth Ledford.

The descendants panel followed, with comments from Dr. Ken Hoffman, nephew of Felicitas Schulsinger, the first female lawyer in Leipzig; Richard Auerbach, grandson of Ella Auerbach, the first female lawyer in Bad Hamburg; and Elsa Roberts Auerbach, daughter of Lilly Melchior Roberts, a corporate lawyer from Berlin who, after immigrating to the United States, became international law librarian at the University of Michigan Law School.

performanceThe event concluded with a musical memorial performed by Sharon Christman and Ivo Kaltchev, professors at The Catholic University of America Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art. The significance of the piece performed, “Ein Jüdisches Kind,” comes from its being the only surviving composition written by Czech Jewish pianist Carlo Taube, who was later murdered at Auschwitz.

Catholic Law professor Marshall Breger closed the event with remarks expressing gratitude to the exhibit's supporters—among which were included the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession; the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia; the Women’s Bar Association of Maryland; and the Simon E. Soboloff Jewish Law Society of Maryland. Audience members afterward mingled at a reception in the Atrium, while viewing the exhibition.

receptionOn Monday, November 6, Catholic Law will host a related event, which will commemorate the eighty-fifth anniversary of the November pogroms initiated by the Nazi Party’s Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel paramilitaries—a horrendous event greater known as Kristallnacht, or the “Crystal Night,” on account of the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned businesses were raided and destroyed.

This solemn commemoration will feature as its central presentation a showing of Filmmakers for the Prosecution, a 2021 film that retraces the hunt for the films used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials but which the State Department intentionally buried once American priorities shifted to combating communism in light of the Cold War. The hourlong movie will be followed by a panel discussion, with such guest speakers as filmmaker Sandra Schulberg; Eli Rosenbaum, Counsel for War Crimes and Accountability at the Department of Justice; and the Hon. Andreas Michaelis, the newly arrived German ambassador to the United States.

A recoding of the event is available below.