“What kind of law are you going to practice?”
It’s a question every incoming law student is bombarded with from the moment they register for the LSAT, but I never felt fully prepared to answer it. I was interested in dozens of legal paths before law school, and a year at Boston College has only broadened my interests.
Over winter break I watched The Pianist. As the film opens, the main character is playing live on the radio in 1939—just as Warsaw is being bombed by Germany. With the bombs falling, the pianist rushes home. His family is Jewish, and his sister is a young lawyer.
The bombing continues for days. The family is relieved when France and Britain announce that they have declared war on Germany, but no nation comes to their rescue, and before long Warsaw is under the umbrella of one ideology. The pianist and his family, who are forced to wear blue Star of David armbands and are not allowed to work, eventually are relocated to a Warsaw ghetto. The pianist is separated from his family by a friend serving in the Jewish Ghetto Police. It is a heartbreaking moment as the rest of the family—including the pianist’s sister—are shoved into a cargo train and sent to their certain deaths.
That scene and the sister’s character arc have haunted me this entire semester. Although the movie is primarily focused on the pianist, I wanted to know more about her, what she was thinking—as an attorney, she must have agonized over the supposed legal justifications as the Jewish population lost their jobs, then their homes, until finally they were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp. What I found so frightening (and chilling) about the sister is that despite being a lawyer, she was unable to protect her family. Under the circumstances, what could she have done?
Everything was moving so fast. In a time of war, Poland’s civil society and its institutions were collapsing. The moment was bigger than one person, one attorney, or one Jewish woman.
But it still haunts me. And I have not been able to shake that feeling.