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Saturday, January 10, 2004

                       Niemoller's Famous Statement

          When at the age of ninety-two Martin Niemoller died in 1984,he was internationally known as an extraordinary personality in twentieth- century Christianity. As a German U-boat commander he had been a hero in World War I. Thereafter, he became a Christian minister and, as a popular preacher in Berlin-Dahlem, he held one of Germany's most prestigious pulpits. He is often described as a "leader in the church struggle with Nazism." His confinement as Hitler's "personal prisoner" from 1937 until 1945, first in prison and then in a concentration camp, is a dramatic fact known to many familiar with modern German history. After World War II, he became president of the World Council of Churches, and he was a prominent spokesman for civil rights and peace. Indeed, as early as October, 1945, within months of the war's end, Niemoller participated in a meeting that framed the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. It was during his post-World War II tour of the United States that, in speaking before many audiences, he concluded his addresses with the famous statement that has ever since been attributed to him as the words of a typical victim of Hitler.

"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."


          In fact, however, when in 1937 the Nazis came for Niemoller, he was opposed to any political resistance to Hitler. He simply saw Hitler as an intruder into that part of German life reserved for the church. In fact, as Harold Marcuse's "Legacies of Dachau" shows, Niemoller tried to avoid arrest by assuring the Gestapo that he was an antisemite.Thus Professor Franklin H. Littell in Exile in the Fatherland writes of Niemoller:

"By the time he was arrested and imprisoned, first in Moabit and later in Sachsenhausen and Dachau, where he was held without trial or chargeon direct order of the Fuhrer, the basic lines of the Christian resistance were set: the Nazi regimwas resisted for invading the church's area of competence and for idolatry - not for breaking thelaw or for its brutal breach of the rights of human beings. Niemoller, who was at the time a religious and political conservative, was in any case opposed to  political resistance."

          What Exile in the Fatherland does not tell us is that Niemoller, even as a Christian minister imprisoned by the Nazis, was probably an  anti-Semite as he sat there in his cell. For example, in 1935 Niemoller, then forty-three years old, delivered a sermon that described his conception of a Jew. James Bentley writes  :

    "For centuries Christian churches had dedicated the tenth Sunday      after Trinity to remembering the destruction of the Jewish temple and the fate of the Jewish people. Niemoller habitually preached on this theme on the appointed day, introducing into his sermon such notions as that of the 'Wandering Jew', who has no home and cannot find peace. He spoke(in 1935) of a 'highly' gifted people which produces idea after idea for the benefit of the world, but whateverit takes up changes into poison, and all that it ever reaps is contempt and hatred. The reason, he explained,was not hard to find. The Jew was cursed for crucifying Jesus, and Jews since then have carried about with them as a fearsome burden the unforgiven blood-guilt of their fathers. The assumptions behind this thinking not only offeredno practical guidance for coping with the Jewish question during the Third Reich but actually played into Hitler's hands."

          Bentley's scholarly biography is not hostile to Niemoller. It is dedicated to members of Niemoller's family and Bentley himself had a long, friendly relationship with Niemoller. These facts are to be kept in mind because Bentley reports Niemoller in 1933 as a Christian minister who, in an accommodation of Nazi Aryan belief, actually suggested the idea of separate congregations for Jews who had converted to Christianity. Of this corrupt idea Bentley writes:

"It is...important to realize that Martin Niemoller was prepared to contemplate such proposals. This makes all the more impressive his development as a defender of the Jews - a development that was not complete until the end of World War II.'

          Surely, it is a curiously compassionate thing to congratulate a fifty-three year old Christian minister for his impressive achievement in 1945 in having finally developed into a defender of Jews at the end of the Holocaust.

          Last, and most tellingly, Niemoller was in prison on Kristallnacht, that November 9th day in 1938 when, among other appalling anti-Semitic acts, Stormtroopers set afire 119 synagogues, 91 Jews were killed, and more than 20,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Niemoller admitted to his briographer, Bentley, that "It became clear only then that the Jews were to be eliminated not simply from the church but from human society." Now, although Niemoller saw in Kristallnacht the death of all Jews, knew of Germany's anti-Semitic laws that preceded and followed Kristallnacht, and was aware of the overwhelming evidence of public Nazi barbarity towards Jews that accompanied Hitler's exercise of power, Niemoller nevertheless, upon Hitler's invasion of Poland in September, 1939, and the ensuing declaration of war between Britain and Germany, volunteered "to fight for Adolph Hitler's Germany". In that September, Niemoller, a forty-seven year old Christian minister, who was then still Hitler's "personal prisoner", wrote to Grand Admiral Raeder, "offering, as a reserve officer, to serve his country 'in any capacity' ". His letter was released by the Nazis to the world's press.

          This offer to serve the Nazis was made by a man whose famous words, uttered after the defeat of Germany, so appeal to us. This offer to serve the Nazis "in any capacity" was made by a man who, when "they came for the Jews", failed to speak out because he was a common variety of anti-Semite. This offer to serve Hitler "in any capacity" was made by the man who, "after they came for me", spoke out for himself by offering to bear arms for them, for those who, had they won the war,  would have searched the earth  to kill every Jewish man, woman, and child.What darker example of the power of nationalism is there than Niemoller, a Christian minister, ready in the name of Germany to drink from the cup of genocide?

                                                                 Harry Reynolds




Posted at 11:40 pm by chekhov
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Tuesday, November 25, 2003


                                              Voting as Selfdefense for Senior High School Students
          It is at least probable that our high school students who will be 18 years old during 2004 may be given in 2005 the honor of serving this country in Baghdad under the proven leadership of their commander in chief, George Bush. It is probable that, unlike Vietnam, there will be no deferments for college students, and so those high school students eager to visit Baghdad and to personally meet the grateful Iraqi population may be able to do so.
          Those students, however, who may be churlish enough to be of a different mind, as well as those eager to serve, should consider obtaining a voter registration form. It can be completed in less than 60 seconds. The filing of the form will empower them to vote in the presidential election in November. Here are the simple rules. 
         In order to register, they must be 18 by December 31st in 2004. Thus they may be 17 when they file the form in 2004, as long as they are 18 by December 31st in 2004. However, in order to vote, they must be 18 by election day. The only catch is that, in order for them to vote on election day, the registration form must have been filed at the county board of elections no later than 25 days before election day. The form may be mailed or delivered to the Board of Elections, 25 Quarropas Street, White Plains, New York 10601 (914 995 5715).         
          The registration form may be downloaded at http://www.westchestergov.com/boe. It would be the decent thing for the Board of Education to provide the forms for the high school students. The god of war eats not the old but the young, and it is to these young that we should be kind even in small things like providing them with a voter registration form.

                                                                                      Harry Reynolds

Posted at 09:49 pm by chekhov
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Saturday, November 22, 2003


                                                 The Shoe on the Other Foot

         There are about 197,000 registered lawyers in New York State, and their numbers are increasing. Of these, 196,000 used to spend their afternoons paring their nails while mailing excessive bills to their clients. It is probable that the fraudulent practice of excessive billing extended over the last century and that, except for last week’s Daily News horror stories of attorneys who secretly stole moneys from their clients ( Predators at Law), excessive billing thefts did not appear on society’s radar screen. Lawyers knew that excessive billing is theft but they knew that clients usually couldn’t prove it. They knew that a client’s complaint to a disciplinary committee died a quick death. Those committees did not involve themselves in fee disputes. They knew that if the client retained another attorney to pursue the first one, he would now be punished by two attorneys instead of one. And so, at best, the client had a trip to Purgatory followed by a trip to Hell. Little wonder that hundreds of thousands of clients prayed that the bones of lawyers be ground to dust and sent to factories that make mah jong sets.

          Such, however, was the chronic epidemic of billing thefts that Chief Judge Judith Kaye has seen to the adoption of court rules that put a new deck on the table, and ordered all lawyers to pull up a chair. The rules, thoughtfully unpublicized by bar associations even until today, not only inhibit attorneys from charging excessive fees but tend to persuade the greedy to promptly reduce their pumped up fees in order to escape Kaye’s remedy. Here in outline is the drill:

           Upon receiving an excessive bill between $1,000 and $50,000 in a civil matter, a client may now refuse to pay the fee and demand arbitration in an informal proceeding before a local bar association’s arbitrator. The client may demand arbitration even if he has paid the fee. The lawyer must appear and prove that his fee is reasonable. If he refuses, he may be suspended or disbarred. He must produce evidence of his work and its billing history. The client need not be repesented by a lawyer, must pay only a nominal filing fee, and may, if he wishes, file only an affidavit stating his complaint. The award must be made within 30 days. The losing party may thereafter begin a court action within 30 days, as if the arbitration had not been held, otherwise the award becomes final.

          The client no longer must go hat in hand to beg his crooked lawyer to reduce his bloated fee. He may now compel him to fox trot over to the bar association and justify his fee before his fellow lawyers who know, perhaps from experience, the familiar odor of an excessive fee.  Indeed, his claimed expenses might have a strange look, for fraudulent expenses are kissing cousins of excessive fees.

                                                                                                 Harry Reynolds

Posted at 11:19 am by chekhov
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Ecstatics are commonly found among the pious, far from public view. Westchester County, insofar as research discloses, has never had a resident pious ecstatic. It has, however, regularly suffered political ecstatics whose sole desire is constant public attention.

Its current political ecstatic is found in the office of the District Attorney. In fact, our ecstatic is the District Attorney. While police officers upon hearing the sound of gunshots reach for their revolvers, our ecstatic reaches for her make up kit, dresses in a grey Bergdorf Homicide Scene Arrival Suit, and goes to the murder scene so swiftly that everyone expects that one day she will arrive before the defendant has discharged his pistol to which she had thoughtfully attached an exhibit tag long before the defendant had even thought of shooting the decedent.

It is unseemly for a prosecutor to arrive at a crime scene and, like a director strolling in front of a television camera, point to allegedly incriminating records laid out for public viewing, describe their contents, and speak of their connection with the defendants whose guilt she describes in detail. These acts of Ms Pirro were televised in connection with the recent arrests in Yonkers of persons accused of an extensive prositution scheme. Whether they are guilty remains to be proved by the people. It is not something to be used by Ms Pirro for the sake of publicity to advance her political ambitions.

On the other hand, Ms Pirro has an intelligence above the usual run of politicians. She works harder and more imaginatively than they do. What she needs, however, is a sensibility that her public appearances at crime scenes make the public uneasy about her. The public knows unfairness when they see it, and become uncomfortable when, of all persons, they find it in a prosecutor. In short, by taming her desire for publicity she probably will attract the kind of attention that will advance her in her ambition for public service.

Harry Reynolds

Posted at 03:36 pm by chekhov
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Tuesday, September 16, 2003
On Electing Judges

On Electing Judges

Judges, in the main, are ordinary men and women with ordinary virtues and ordinary vices. No judge has ever claimed for judges an honesty greater than that of their butcher or dentist, and no butcher or dentist can demand of a judge a degree of honesty greater than that expected from the general population. And so, especially because judges come to us out of the business of politics, a place held in universal moral contempt, we can hope that judges when confronted by the enormity of the burden of the bench will be, in the end, industrious and courageous.

As to the first, we need not be unduly anxious, for New York’s judges are overseen by the Office of Court Administration, and hence their work is in some degree measurable. But as to the second, courage is not predictable, even by a judge himself, particulary when the prospect of advancement or continuation in office may be determined politically. Hence, one may fear that great political issues, unlike questions of industriousness, may arise, and the weak may fall, for there is nothing so well served as the selfinterest of judges hopeful of both reward and greater recognition, eager to serve not principles but powers. With respect to both industry and courage, a cursory glance at Judge Learned Hand’s life may be useful to those judges who soon will be elected.

After 52 years of active service, Learned Hand, at 89, having retired formally in 1951, but having continued to sit with the circuit until his death in 1961, wrote on June 13, 1961 to Justice Felix Frankfurter:

"I have fallen into near idleness; I have taken part in not more

than 25 or 26 cases this year and I would take up some other

job if I could find one."1

As for courage, in 1917 in the tense political climate that pervaded the nation at the beginning of World War I, the 45-year old Learned Hand was a district judge. A free speech case involving the Espionage Act of 1917 came before him. Plaintiff’s publication had been denied the mails. Though the publication expressed a profound animosity against the government for having entered the war, Hand could not find in it a wilfulness required by the statute. Accordingly, he enjoined the defendant postmaster from barring the publication from the mails.

Hand knew that his decision would hurt him personally. Indeed, it did. It delayed his going to the circuit court for 8 years. What is of consequence in measuring Learned Hand as a judge is not the reversal that promptly followed his decision (Masses Publishing Co. V. Patten, 244 F. 235 (S.D.N.Y.), rev’d 246 F. 24 (2d Cir. 1917)) but the letter that he wrote to his wife, Frances, on July 16, 1917, about a week before he handed down his decision:

"There are times when the old bunk about an independent

and fearless judiciary means a good deal. This is one of them;

and if I have limitatins of judgment, I may have to suffer

for it, but I want to be sure that these are the only

limitations and that I have none of character."2

Harry Reynolds

Posted at 07:54 pm by chekhov
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