Richard Weisberg : Courses and Seminars
Legalistic Wrongdoing in Hitler's Europe and Postwar Restitution in American Federal Courts
This seminar studies the discourse and doctrine of two major legal systems that functioned in Hitler's Europe to provide sustenance to an ongoing genocide. With a focus on courts and lawyers in Nazi Germany and in Vichy France, the readings involve primary documents, books, and articles about the way entire legal communities, with few protesters, used recognizable legal language and judicial institutions to accommodate grotesque variations upon what had been sound structures of reasoning and decision-making. We look not only at "what happened" but at "why" intelligent lawyers, trained in pre-War traditions including those of due process and egalitarianism, folded their tents and helped create a structure that totally violated those traditions. A connection will be made to contemporary American law, both in flagging analogous challenges in the 21st century and also in tracking in some detail litigation on behalf of Holocaust survivors or their heirs in American federal courts over the past 20 years, litigation that is ongoing in Chicago district court as the seminar proceeds.