IRVINGTON, NJ — Pamela Nwaoko, who grew up in Irvington and currently attends Harvard Law School, is among 12 law students chosen by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics to participate in a two-week program in Europe this summer, which uses the conduct of lawyers and judges in Nazi Germany as a launching point for an intensive course of study on ethics in the legal profession today.
Now in its seventh year of operation, FASPE is an innovative international program for students in five professional disciplines — business, journalism, law, medicine and religion — designed to address contemporary ethical issues in their chosen fields through a unique historical lens.
FASPE is predicated upon the power of place and, in particular, the first-hand experience of visiting Auschwitz and other historic sites associated with the Holocaust, where fellows consider how to apply the lessons of history to the ethical challenges they will confront in their professions.
Pre-World War II professionals in Germany were known and respected internationally. Yet, leaders and practitioners in the professions played a fundamental role in designing, implementing and enabling the crimes of Nazi Germany.
FASPE examines the roles played by professionals in business, journalism, law, medicine and the clergy in Nazi Germany, underscoring that the moral codes governing these essential professions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences.
“By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships,” said C. David Goldman, founder of FASPE.
In the course of 12 days, fellows will attend lectures with a range of guest speakers and participate in seminars run by leading scholars who serve as FASPE faculty. The program integrates historical, cultural, philosophical and literary sources; survivor testimony; and workshops in Berlin, Auschwitz and Krakow.
The 2016 FASPE Law program will be led by David Luban, university professor and professor of law and philosophy at Georgetown University Law Center.
“Participating in FASPE is a step toward my goal of deploying the law as a tool for justice,” said Nwaoko, “An opportunity to travel to the very sites where the law was used as a mechanism for murder will enable me to confront this legal legacy and to take seriously the accompanying charge to be purposefully and deliberately compassionate in how I use my talents as a lawyer.”
Nwaoko was born and raised in Irvington, the daughter of parents who emigrated to the United States from Nigeria. She earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Georgetown University and a master’s in African studies from Oxford University in England. Currently, Nwaoko is a third-year law student at Harvard who has served as president of the Harvard African Law Association this past year. Following FASPE, Nwaoko will work as a summer associate at the Washington, D.C., office of Skadden law firm.
Nwaoko joins a group of 63 FASPE fellows who represent a broad range of religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds and who were chosen through a competitive process that drew more than 700 applicants from around the world. FASPE covers all program costs, including transatlantic and European travel, food and lodging. In the past six years, FASPE has worked with close to 320 fellows using curricula designed in partnership with faculty from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Georgetown University, Yale Law School and the Yale School of Medicine.
FASPE Law Fellows, along with the business and journalism fellows, will begin their program in Berlin on Sunday, May 22. In Berlin, the program includes museum visits, meeting with a Holocaust survivor and attending educational workshops at the House of the Wannsee Conference, the site where representatives of state and Nazi Party agencies convened in 1942 to discuss and coordinate plans for the Nazis’ “Final Solution.”
The fellows then travel to Oświęcim, Poland, the town the Germans called Auschwitz, where they will work with the distinguished educational staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Sessions devoted to contemporary ethics will take place in seminar rooms at Auschwitz and at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. The final leg of the trip will be held in Krakow, Poland, where fellows will explore the city’s rich Catholic, Jewish and Polish history.
After the program, each fellow will submit a final written essay focused on a contemporary ethical issue of his or her choice. Select essays will be published in the annual FASPE Journal, which showcases essays in all five disciplines.
“FASPE is committed to a long-term relationship with fellows, in order to sustain the ideas raised during the program. FASPE fosters an active network of alumni and provides a variety of opportunities for fellows to exchange ideas and to meet to continue the dialogue started during our trips as they move forward in their careers,” said Thorin R. Tritter, FASPE’s managing director. “The centerpiece of these efforts is our annual Alumni Reunion and Symposium, where fellows from all years discuss the current issues in their respective fields and participate in various inter-disciplinary networking activities.”