A new exhibition on Jewish attorneys practicing in Nazi Germany led to a startling discovery – of a lawyer from Palestine who was awarded his degree in Leipzig just three days after Kristallnacht, in 1938.
The story of Saul Lande has been included in an exhibition in Leipzig called “Lawyers without Rights.”
On November 12, 1938, Lande was awarded his doctoral degree in law. The Nazis had already been in power for five years by that time, but the University of Leipzig did not attempt to deprive Lande of his degree, as happened to dozens of other Jews. Just the opposite. In an act that is almost impossible to understand in retrospect, the university even invited Lande to come from Palestine for the graduation ceremony in Germany.
The invitation to the ceremony made its way from Nazi Germany all the way to Ahad Ha’am Street in Tel Aviv. “Lande, in a show of chutzpah, bravery or stupidity, came by boat to Europe and then took a train directly to Leipzig,” said Joel Levi, a lawyer who is in charge of relations between Israel and Germany for the Israel Bar Association.
Stories told by Lande’s family say he reached Leipzig and met a friend from his studies at the university, who reprimanded him for risking his life just to receive his degree. To protect him, his friend quickly arranged for his German wife to accompany Lande around, hoping the Jew from Israel would not arouse any suspicions in the heart of Nazi Germany. “He arrived at the ceremony, received his diploma, left the city and returned to Israel safely,” said Levi.
For decades, Lande’s doctoral diploma lay in the attic in the Tel Aviv home of Lande’s daughter, Rina Gross, who is also a lawyer and married to retired Judge Yehoshua Gross. “We had a box with family documents, but we never bothered to open it,” said Rina Gross as she leafed through the box. Nine months ago, after receiving a request from Germany, she looked around in the attic and found the box after years.
“We were shocked. My father never talked about it,” said Gross. She was particularly shocked by the swastika adorning her father’s diploma. Among the other documents she found in the family archive were his doctoral dissertation, in German; correspondence between her father and his adviser in preparation for receiving his degree; and price quotes from printers in Germany with whom he negotiated for the printing of his dissertation. One of the letters, which was also sent from Nazi Germany to Tel Aviv, ended with the salutation “Heil Hitler.”
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