The atroc­i­ties of the Holo­caust pro­vided Benny Meshoulam, L’11, with per­spec­tive on con­tem­po­rary eth­ical issues when he par­tic­i­pated last summer in the Fel­low­ships at Auschwitz for the Study of Pro­fes­sional Ethics (FASPE), a two-​​week pro­gram in New York, Berlin and Poland for law and med­ical school students.

Nation­wide, 30 stu­dents were selected to examine con­tem­po­rary eth­ical issues in their chosen pro­fes­sions through the his­tor­ical lens of Nazi Ger­many and the Holo­caust. The law fel­lows explored such topics as the rule of law versus law­less­ness and the role of the lawyer in a bureau­cratic state, and dis­cussed con­tem­po­rary case studies such as the “Tor­ture Memos,” doc­u­ments drafted in 2002 out­lining U.S. policy related to the war on terror.

It was fas­ci­nating to learn about the cen­tral role that lawyers played in imple­menting the Holo­caust and Hitler’s agenda,” said Meshoulam. “In order to carry out such a mas­sive and well-​​organized under­taking, pro­fes­sionals from many fields had to be involved. But the number of senior offi­cials within the Nazi party who were attor­neys was striking.”

Fel­lows, selected annu­ally by FASPE, are funded under the aus­pices of the Museum of Jewish Her­itage — A Living Memo­rial to the Holo­caust. The program’s goal is to pro­vide tomorrow’s pro­fes­sional leaders with oppor­tu­ni­ties to increase their aware­ness and pre­pared­ness for the eth­ical issues they will con­front throughout their careers.

FASPE raises the ques­tion of what roles the pro­fes­sionals played in the Holo­caust and what can be derived from them for future pro­fes­sional leaders,” said FASPE founder C. David Goldman.

My mother’s par­ents were both Polish,” said Meshoulam. “They were for­tu­nate to have left before the war, but most of my grandmother’s rel­a­tives per­ished in the Holo­caust. This pro­gram re-​​emphasized to me the tremen­dous power that lawyers wield. It also made me realize how impor­tant it is for lawyers to con­tin­u­ally ask ques­tions, not only about legal doc­trine, but about the values and assump­tions that are at the root of that doctrine.”