During a twenty-four hour period that began on the evening of November 9, 1938, Nazi storm troopers and German townspeople burned down “more than a thousand synagogues,” and looted and desecrated many others; vandalized and pillaged “[t]ens of thousands of Jewish shops and homes”; murdered an estimated ninety-one Jewish people; and arrested and sent to concentration camps “more than 30,000 Jewish men between the ages of sixteen and sixty.”

     In his account of this infamous “Night of Broken Glass,” Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (2006), Martin Gilbert observes that its eruption of anti-Semitism, instigated by the highest levels of the Nazi command and encouraged by the deliberate passivity of the police, followed almost “[s]ix years of legalised anti-Jewish discrimination, isolating the Jews from their fellow Germans and depriving them of the rights of full citizenship.” 

     For instance, “During 1933 the German government [had] enacted forty-two laws restricting the right of German Jews to earn a living, to enjoy full citizenship, and to educate themselves,” and barred them from working in the civil service, which “included schools and universities.”

     Alan E. Steinweis’s Kristallnacht 1938 (2009) finds that during these years anti-Semitic violence was “in fact fairly common in Germany,” and characterizes Kristallnacht “more as a culmination of a brutal trajectory [of legislative discrimination] and less as the dramatic rupture it is usually represented as having been. . . . The events of November 1938 marked a crescendo in the violence that had accompanied legal and bureaucratic marginalization of [German] Jews from the very beginning.”

     One aspect of that marginalization is chronicled in Simone Ladwig-Winters’ Lawyers Without Rights: The Fate of Jewish Lawyers in Berlin After 1933 (2018): the September 1938 law, to which the German bar did not raise notable or organized opposition, that prohibited Jewish lawyers (including at least 674 in Berlin) from practicing in Germany.

     “The [book’s] biographical directory. . . extends, to the extent information could be ascertained, beyond information over a person’s legal activities and professional career.  The short and sometimes longer information concerning individuals should give the reader a personal feel for the exclusion and persecution.  In addition to this, the overall statistical analysis should provide an insight into the quantitative dimensions of exclusion.” 

     Ladwig-Winters notes, “In April 1933 and in the following years the most absurd and uncivilized measures were given statutory form.  Non-Jewish colleagues hardly had any doubts about such measures, based on the motto: ‘Law is law.’  It seems like no one took steps to prevent this development. . . . Legal colleagues remained reserved. . . .”

     In fact, “In that they let themselves be used, [lawyers] worked together with this system as it was built.  They were not just assistants, but rather made an active contribution to a legal system based on injustice that led to the exclusion of entire population groups. . . . Human or legal concerns regarding segregation were not made vocal.”

    Lawyers Without Rights discusses Germany’s 1933 statute defining the status of “non-Aryan,” which “included all people who were adherents of the Jewish religion or, regardless of their religious beliefs, had parents or grandparents who at some time had been the member of a Jewish congregation.”

    Richard Weisberg’s Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France (1996) depicts in damning detail the coldly technical and detached approach of French lawyers to that regime’s 1941 statute defining “Jew.” 

     He reflects, “The written laws against Jews. . . were the medium always available to clever Vichy lawyers to negate or at least to minimize Jewish suffering.  Instead, lawyers, judges, government officials and academicians argued for the protection of only small sub-groupings.”  Weisberg emphasizes “the immense suffering caused by the legal community’s very willingness to nitpick, hence indicating their basic acceptance of the new laws.”

    In Poethics and Other Strategies of Law and Literature (1992), Weisberg examines a French appellate lawyer’s 1943 publication, “What Means of Proof Can the Jew of Mixed Blood Offer to Establish His Nonaffiliation with the Jewish Race?”, as an example of the “ingrained proclivity [of such a “professional”] to throw himself into whatever framework outsiders had built around him, without thought to the rotten nature of the structure itself.” 

     In her own book, Simone Ladwig-Winters invokes “a central point of Jewish tradition: ‘Zachor!—Remember!’”

     As it is written in the Haggadah, and as the warning is repeated aloud each Passover around the seder table, “[N]ot only one has risen up against us, but in every generation some have arisen against us to annihilate us. . . .”