Historical & Special Collections • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Last Chance: Exhibit on HLS Student Orgs Closing Soon!

If you have not yet seen our exhibit on HLS student organizations, Spicy Reforms and Crystallizing Clap Trap, now is the time. Due to a January filming project in the Caspersen Room, the exhibit must close on Friday, December 21. A sneak peek is available here, but there’s so much more to see in person. Take a quick study break and visit the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, daily between 9 and 5 to see it all!

In Ruhleben Camp: Armistice Day at Ruhleben

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. This special post by Marissa Grunes marks the centenary of Armistice Day (November 11, 1918).

The Ruhleben Camp Magazine was largely quiet in the second half of the First World War—as this blog series has been! In honor of Armistice Day yesterday and Veteran’s Day today, though, I wanted to offer a special post about the unusual end to the Great War for those passive participants, the British civilian internees at Ruhleben Camp outside Berlin.

In some ways the drama of Armistice Day was muted within Ruhleben Camp. Many internees had already been released, and those who remained were still busily engaged in camp cultural activities, with the last of the camp’s 128 theater productions opening after Armistice Day, as Davidson Ketchum notes (Ketchum, p. 240). The robust civic organization within the camp had also rendered the last year of the war comparatively gentle to Ruhlebenites. Thanks to the work of the Quaker peace activist Elisabeth Rotten and the Friends Emergency Committee, Ruhleben had access to a steady stream of books and scientific instruments as well as support funds, as the historian Matthew Stibbe relates (Stibbe, p. 144-6), and although the Ruhleben Camp Magazine seems to have closed its editorial offices in the summer of 1917, the Ruhleben Camp School (jocularly called Ruhleben University) remained in full swing (Ketchum, p. 198; In Ruhleben, p. 226). Meanwhile, “standardised” parcel delivery service, various clubs, and the civic administration were also still active (Ketchum, pp. 8).

Ruhleben Theatre, Diplomacy, June 1918. Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp visual materials. Harvard Law School Library. Image ID W422714_1

Ruhleben School of Fencing, March 1918. Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp visual materials. Harvard Law School Library. Image ID W423485_1

This bureaucratic organization was in some cases life-saving. When the Spanish flu struck Germany, leaving 187,000 German civilians and thousands of POWs dead, Ruhleben’s civilian camp authorities leaped into action, imposing quarantines and closing off parts of the camp, including the theatre and cinema. As a result, Ruhleben lost only two men (Stibbe, p. 151).




Ruhleben was also one of the few places in the region with sufficient food: after living behind the Allied blockade for nearly four years, Germans were dying of starvation, yet food parcels continued to arrive at Ruhleben (Stibbe, p. 70). The difference was so stark that in October 1918, the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung carried a feature-length article claiming that a German businessman, one Herr Wittkowski, had asked the Ruhleben commandant to take his sons into the camp to be fed and receive an education (Stibbe, p. 149). One internee later recalled how he and his messmates, fearing that hungry Berliners might raid the camp, went so far as to bury a cache of food in what “was ostensibly a window-box…with emergency rations of canned beef, tripe, etc., and a few flowers planted on top.” He concludes gratefully, “We never needed it” (quoted in Stibbe, p. 153).

The upshot was that Armistice Day mattered less for the internees at Ruhleben Camp than did the chaos sweeping Germany. In early November 1918, German sailors in Kiel resisted orders to take to the seas for a final hopeless battle against the British. As the German imperial government crumbled, revolutionary sentiment spread, reaching Ruhleben on November 8, 1918, when the German guards followed the lead of their countrymen across Europe and deposed their officers. The guards then joined the prisoners in signing a “declaration of brotherhood” between the German and English people, and “hoisted the red flag before setting the prisoners free” (Stibbe, p. 16). The next day, the German republic was proclaimed by the socialist parliamentarian Philipp Scheidemann from the balcony of the Reichstag in Berlin: “That which is old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. Long live that which is new, long live the German republic!” Only a few hours later, a revolutionary admirer of Soviet Russia, Karl Liebknecht, walked up the stairs of the nearby imperial palace to instead proclaim a “free socialist German republic.”

This tension between the moderate and radical socialist revolutionaries cost Liebknecht his life weeks later and would persist throughout the years of Germany’s new Weimar Republic. Nevertheless, revolutionaries in 1918 hoped that socialism would inaugurate a new era in German history. Monarchism, it seemed, had torn the world apart, and socialism promised to heal it. Although this hope was short-lived, it glows from the declaration of peace and fraternity, signed by the inmates and guards at Ruhleben. I would like to conclude by reprinting the opening, as quoted by Matthew Stibbe:

“ENGLISHMEN! Brothers from over the Channel. It is tragic, deeply tragical, that a million dead on both sides were necessary in order to bring home to us that after all we are brothers, and members of the same race. Have Germans and British ever, until now, torn each other to pieces? From impressions gained in competent circles yesterday, it is our personal opinion that your release is only a matter of days. When you are at home again, let it be your task to make known that the German people, in spite of all its victories, still retained sufficient strength to take its destiny into its own hands and this time to keep it there. Let your aim be to make known that the German people, in this, its time of greatest need, which is also the proudest period of its history, instinctively casts its eyes across the water, looking for help.” (p. 155)*

* Jamie McSpadden kindly contributed his substantial expertise on modern German history to this post. Jamie is a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC.


Bibliography & Further Reading

Ketchum, J. Davidson. Ruhleben: A Prison Camp Society. With a Foreword and Postscript by Robert B. MacLeod. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1965. Foreword (Ithaca, NY, April 1964)

In Ruhleben: Letters from a Prisoner to His Mother. Edited and with an introduction by Douglas Sladen. Including “Civilian Prisoners: the Case for a Wholesale Exchange” by Sir Timothy Eden. London: Hurst and Blackett, Ltd. Paternoster House, E.C., 1917.

Stibbe, Matthew. British civilian internees in Germany. The Ruhleben camp, 1914-18. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008.

 Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

Scanning Nuremberg: IMT prosecution documents on persecution of the Jews, Germanization, and NSDAP Leadership Corps

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 3, 2018

During October I covered the IMT prosecution documents on the persecution of the Jews (a phrase that the prosecutors noted was far short of the reality), Germanization, and the first material on the Leadership Corps of the NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers Party], amounting to 157 documents and 663 pages of material. The prosecution detoured from counts 3 and 4 (war crimes and crimes against humanity) to the criminal organizations without any explanation, and will detour back to the plundering of artworks before moving on to the next organization (the Cabinet). For the IMT generally, we now have just over 1200 documents analyzed.

Documentary surpluses and deficits: When the Nuremberg trials staff sorted out the sets of documents for distribution, the folders on the Leadership Corps sent to HLS included a bonus: an extra copy of the trial indictment and an extra copy of the brief on the Corps. What HLS did not receive was a copy of the first document book on the Corps (the other document books are present). All things considered, I would have traded in the duplicates for that document book.

The extermination of the Jews: While official secrecy was maintained, within the regime the extermination of the Jews became explicit policy quickly, both as a military measure and as an end in itself. In Poland Hans Frank was concise: “We must annihilate the Jews.” By June 1943, one report noted that the “special treatment” of the Jews “requires no further discussion,” but some of the tactics were shocking to some people in the regime, such as the removal of dental gold from Jewish prisoners. Also, locking suspected partisan families inside barns and burning them alive “is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely.” One paradoxical point in the report was that the atrocities were so extreme that if news of them got out, people “simply would not be ready to believe it.” Finally, in August 1944, Adolf Eichmann matter-of-factly summed up what the SS had done in a talk with a colleague, who recorded it in an affidavit: Four million Jews in the death camps, two million by the einsatzgruppen and similar actions; six million dead.

Germanization: This program had two sides, one to render the occupied territories useful to Germany and the second to gather in all Europeans of “Germanic blood” to the homeland. Frank stated the first task regarding Poland: “Poland shall be treated as a colony, the Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German World Empire.” Himmler summed up the latter task in 1940: “to create an order of good blood.”

Hitler’s feast: The prize possession of the empire, of course, was to be the Soviet territory. In July 1941 Hitler assumed the military conquest would be swift, and he outlined for his generals a plan to dominate, administer, and exploit the resources, natural and human. What remained, he said, was “the task of cutting up the giant cake according to our needs.”

The HLS Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts. 

We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding.  For more information about this project, please contact Jocelyn Kennedy.

Scanning Nuremberg: Ring of Silence

Post by Matt Seccombe, October 2, 2018

During September I worked through the final IMT prosecution documents covering count 2 (aggression), including the war against the US, and began the documents for counts 3 and 4 (war crimes and crimes against humanity, which were presented together), skipping forced labor (those documents are missing from our set), covering the concentration camp system, and the beginning of the persecution and extermination of the Jews (about which, more next month). The document analysis covered 88 documents and 601 pages of material. A lot of “overhead” time was required to track the documents in the transcript and get the relevant files identified and sorted out.

War against the US: Germany’s declaration of war on 11 December 1941 attributed the war to acts of aggression by the US navy, presumably in the course of the US effort to assist Britain. There was no mention of Japan or the events of December 7. Privately, however, Hitler expressed his approval to the Japanese a few days later: “one should strike—as hard as possible, indeed—and not waste time declaring war.” The Germans continued to press Japan to adopt a strategy that would help Germany: to attack the USSR from the east, which would indirectly lead to a British collapse and the isolation of the US. (The US and Britain engaged in similar strategic triangulation late in the war, urging the USSR to attack Japan, which it did at the end of the war.)

Evidence from the camps: The US prosecutor presented one particularly vivid exhibit from Buchenwald, as recorded in the transcript: “This exhibit, which is on the table, is a human head with the skull removed, shrunken, stuffed, and preserved. The Nazis had one of their many victims decapitated, after having had him hanged apparently for fraternizing with a German woman, and fashioned this terrible ornament from his head.”

The ring of silence: In the Justice Case (NMT 3) some defendants claimed that they had no knowledge of crimes committed in SS camps because the SS surrounded them with a “steel ring of silence.” This began at Dachau in 1933, where the commandant’s regulations provided that “agitators” would be hung. Agitators included anyone who “collects true or false information about the concentration camp . . ., receives such information, buries it, talks about it to others, smuggles it out of the camp . . . conceals it in clothing or other articles, throws stones and other objects over the camp wall containing such informations . . . [or] seeks contact with the outside by giving light or other signals . . . .” The punishment reflects the brutality of the regime, but the list of prohibited actions also suggests the determination and ingenuity of the inmates who tried to break through the secrecy.

The HLS Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts. 

We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding.  For more information about this project, please contact Jocelyn Kennedy.

852 RARE: New Exhibit — Spicy Reforms and Crystallizing Clap Trap: Student Organizations at Harvard Law School

What do dining halls, women’s showers at Hemenway, and shared course outlines have in common? These are all resources available at Harvard Law School today that were put into place by students of yesterday.

Historical & Special Collections’ new exhibit takes a look at how students and their ever-increasing number of law clubs, social clubs, and affinity groups have contributed to HLS culture over time. We feature long-lost organizations whose memory lives solely in the archives, current groups with storied histories that have persisted through many generations, and recently-formed groups who have already begun to make significant headway in shaping the future of HLS. We also exhibit some reactions the community has had to student organizations in the past – from interest in their proposed “spicy reforms” to warnings of “crystallizing clap trap.”

Photograph of a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) national meeting that was held in the Ames Courtoom on the HLS campus.

Photograph of a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) national meeting that was held in the Ames Courtoom on the HLS campus. March 1972; Unknown photographer.

Following an archival collecting project undertaken by Historical & Special Collections in 2016-2018, the exhibit also addresses how archivists here at HLS and abroad are coordinating efforts to preserve today’s student histories.

This exhibit was curated by Jessica Farrell and Jane Kelly of Historical & Special Collections. It will be on view in the Caspersen Room through January 2019 with online addenda at bit.ly/HSCexhibit.

Scanning Nuremberg: “When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment.”

Post by Matt Seccombe, September 7, 2018

During August I continued with the IMT prosecution documents for Crimes against Peace (Count 2), following the expansion of the war after the attack on Poland and the beginning of the war with Britain and France. This covered, in succession, the Nazi attacks on Norway and Denmark; Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg; Yugoslavia and Greece; and the Soviet Union. (The files on the war with the United States will complete the set.) This covered 116 documents and 472 pages of material. (A water leak in the building required the removal of the documents for safekeeping for two days, reducing production somewhat.) Count 2 covers the outbreak of the war; the crimes committed during the war will be covered by Counts 3 and 4, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Inconvenient timing: In January 1940, while Germany was proclaiming its respect for neutral countries, a German plane had to make a forced landing in Belgium, and one document found in the plane was a set of orders stating details of the planned occupation of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and northern France. Hitler had been more candid in a conference in August 1939: “Generally speaking, the best thing to happen would be for the neutrals to be liquidated one after the other.”

Guarding the flanks: One common element in the German attacks in the north, west, and south was a need to block British attacks from the North Sea, the Channel, and the Mediterranean. In the planning conferences, Britain was the opponent that Hitler took most seriously. (He considered the USSR to be vast but weak and the US too distant to be a serious threat.) By similar logic, Hitler wanted to threaten his enemies on their flanks, including calls for Japan to attack the USSR and the British Empire in Asia. One consequence of these multiple occupations was that the German military ended up being spread thin over several fronts.

Barbarossa: Hitler explained the rationale for the invasion of the USSR concisely in June 1941, citing Germany’s need for oil and other resources: “What one does not have, but needs, one must conquer.” His prediction for the world’s reaction, made in February 1941: “When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment.” His planners made another prediction for the results of the German occupation: “many millions of people [in Russia] will be starved to death.”

The tale of page 62: One of the most important prosecution documents was a speech General Jodl made in 1943 on the background and progress of the war. The full text was entered, and various extracts were also presented to note particular issues. In the primary text, however, page 62 is missing; 307 documents further along, a one-page extract carried a hanger-on: page 62. This raised the question of what to do with the page. From an historian’s point of view I was inclined to move the page to where it should have been, thus providing a complete text of the speech. From an archival point of view, however, the page had been placed with the extract in a separate file in 1945 and had arrived at HLS in that file. The accidental misplacement had become a “fact.” Outcome: page 62 remains where it was, in the second document with the extract, with cross-references between the two documents in the database.

The HLS Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts. 

We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding.  For more information about this project, please contact Jocelyn Kennedy.

852 RARE: “This is Neil Chayet, Looking at the Law”

The Harvard Law School Library is excited to announce that it recently received a unique collection of material from the family of Harvard Law School (HLS) alumnus, jurist, and popular radio personality Neil Chayet (HLS ’63). Comprised of more than 10,000 individual transcripts and several thousand corresponding minute-long radio broadcast recordings, the collection represents almost the entirety of Neil Chayet’s “Looking at the Law” radio program which aired on various Boston and national radio stations from 1976-2017.

A native of Massachusetts and the son of a district court judge, Neil Chayet received his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and his J.D. from HLS in 1963. His legal career focused primarily on medical law, and included work on several high-profile cases, including serving on the psychiatric task force for the Boston Strangler murders investigation, and as a lawyer representing inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital in the late 1960s. Chayet went on to become a faculty member of both the Harvard Medical School and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts.

Neil began hosting “Looking at the Law” on April 1, 1976. Originally aired on Boston radio station WEEI, the daily program switched over to WBZ Radio 1030 (owned by CBS) sometime during the mid-to-late 70s, and was eventually broadcast nationally on various affiliated CBS Radio stations. Each episode of the program – all written and recorded by Neil Chayet – opened with the host stating: “this is Neil Chayet, looking at the law” (with the L’s drawn out for effect) followed by a rapid summary of an interesting (and usually fairly quirky) court case. The program gained popularity for Chayet’s ability to quickly distill the information in a friendly manner that was easy to understand for listeners, and each broadcast ended with a humorous pun summarizing the case. For example, the July 22, 2009 episode titled “The Surf’s not the City’s Turf” details a case in which a surfer sued the city of Cape May, New Jersey for injuries sustained while surfing during a hurricane, claiming that the city had failed to provide proper warning about the conditions for beach goers. The individual ultimately lost the case, and the episode ends with Neil Chayet stating: “So the net result is that the waters have closed over Bill’s case, and if the waves pull you under, the Courts won’t come to your rescue.”


Chayet Transcript

Typed transcript of the “Looking at the Law” episode that aired on July 22, 2009

The collection of material that HLS received includes the typed transcripts of nearly every episode of “Looking at the Law” (more than 10,000 in total), roughly 240 audiovisual objects (cassette tapes, CDs, DAT tapes, etc.) containing recordings of several thousand “Looking at the Law” episodes, and many gigabytes of born digital material (later episodes).

Chayet audiocassette

Compact audio cassette tape containing recorded episodes of “Looking at the Law” from January, 1978

Chayet DAT tape

DAT tape containing recorded episodes of “Looking at the Law” from May-June, 1997

The goal is to provide researchers with robust digital access to this collection, something HLS staff members are working diligently to accomplish. We are currently preparing the paper material for digitization, the end-result of which will be viewing and full-text search capabilities for each typed transcript/episode online. The majority of the typed transcripts also include a citation to the legal case featured in that episode (you can see a citation toward the bottom of the transcript shown above). By collaborating with the Caselaw Access Project at HLS, we hope to provide links and/or other contextual metadata about the actual cases as well. The next phase of the project will involve digitizing the audiovisual recordings and creating links between the digitized transcripts for each episode and the related audio recording. Ultimately, the collection will be accessible to users via HOLLIS for Archival Discovery, as well as other possible locations.

So, “stay tuned” for future a future update about the project, including when the collection will be open to the public.

Post contributed by Chris Spraker, Audiovisual Archivist

852 RARE: From Paper Plates to Sticky Notes, Documenting Student Activism

Historical & Special Collections (HSC) has been working hard since the spring of 2016 to collect material that helps tell the story of student life at Harvard Law School (HLS), most recently in the form of the HLS Community Capture Project. Given our focus on archiving student action, it was very exciting to find a nondescript, cardboard box tucked away in the Library’s art office, contained objects from a student protest in 1987.

On the front of the box scribbled in pencil were notes made by Bernice Loss, the School’s first art curator. Loss, a trained artist (and spouse of HLS faculty member Louis Loss) started to look after the School’s art collection in the early 1970s. In 1977, she was named the first HLS art director, later becoming the curator of the art collection and a member of the Library’s Special Collections Department (created in 1985). Loss’ inscription reads: 1987 / Paper Plate Faces / (To protest too many male faces in collection). Inside are more than 50 papers plates with images and slogans written in marker meant to highlight the larger number of white, male portraits and the lack of women and professors of color. According to Loss’ notes, these plates were placed in the hallways of Austin Hall, on books in the Austin Hall north classroom; on the frames of pictures in Langdell Hall; as well as a few other locations on campus.

Piece of paper and 4 plates

A sign and examples of the paper plates recently rediscovered.
Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

During her tenure, Loss worked to diversify the portrait collection, overseeing the acquisition of portraits of women and people of color including Judge Ruth Abrams (LL.B. 1956), Florence Allen, Clarence Clyde Ferguson, and George Lewis Ruffin (LL.B. 1869). However, then as now, the collection was predominantly made up of portraits of white men.

Like the notes students placed “beside portraits of black faculty, expressing appreciation for their pedagogy, scholarship, and character” in response to the vandalism of photographs of Black faculty members (and later archived by HSC), these paper plates are extremely ephemeral, making it all the more exciting that they have survived more than 30 years. They also raise interesting questions regarding their storage and preservation, as well as the ethics of collecting student protest material. Did students consider what would happen to the plates after they put them up? Were they involved in the transfer of material to the Library? How does one care for paper objects that are more 3-D than flat?

The plates and their accompanying material will now be formally accessioned and made available to anyone who would like to see them.

If you were a student involved in this protest, we would love to hear from you and learn more about this action and how the HLS community responded.

Visit Historical & Special Collections (and lots of other archives!) during Cambridge Open Archives this June

This year Historical & Special Collections is celebrating Cambridge Open Archives’ 10th Anniversary as part of two weeks of behind-the-scenes tours at 15 archives, libraries, and special collections around Cambridge! Get a closer look at special collections and archival material here at HLS, as well as 14 other archives at Harvard and across the city.


: Unite to Support Rent Control flyer with additional information about Cambridge Open Archives

Unite to Support Rent Control flyer, Records of the Cambridge Tenants’ Union, Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections, Box 11, Folder 1.

When:   June 11-15 and June 18-21, 2018
Various locations in Cambridge, including Historical & Special Collections
Free! Space is limited, however, so be sure to register below.


Coming to Historical & Special Collections on June 1: HOLLIS Special Request

On June 1, 2018, Harvard Law School Library’s Historical & Special Collections (HSC) will begin using HOLLIS Special Request!

HOLLIS Special Request allows you to request material to view in our reading room and to request reproductions of HSC’s materials. HOLLIS Special Request replaces paper registration and request forms, and will make it easier for you to keep track of appointment and reproduction requests. Appointments in HSC’s reading room, the Root Room, are available Tuesday-Friday between 10:00 and 5:00.

Use HOLLIS Special Request to:

  • Submit requests to use HSC material in our reading room via links in the Harvard Library catalog, HOLLIS
  • Submit orders for reproductions including digital scans of Harvard special collections materials
  • Track the status of your requests in a single location
  • Access detailed information about past requests

Many Harvard special collections and archives already use HOLLIS Special Request. Once you have created an account you can use it to request material from all participating Harvard libraries and keep track of your requests in a single location.

To get started, create your HOLLIS Special Request account now!

Here’s a quick tutorial to help you get started, and some FAQs about using HOLLIS Special Request and HSC’s collections. We are excited about HOLLIS Special Request and look forward to going live on June 1!

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