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Letter from FASPE’s Chairman

by David Goldman

“What does it mean to be a professional?  Do I have a special responsibility as a professional? What does it mean to be an ethical professional? What kind of professional do I want to be?  How do I lead an ethical life in my profession?

FASPE is in the business of asking questions, of pushing our Fellows to understand the importance of asking questions—about the propriety of their work, about their own behavior, about the conduct of their profession.

FASPE’s rationale for connecting the history (the behavior of the professionals in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s) to the present may not be self-evident. It is grounded on two fundamental propositions, namely: (i) that the German professionals, even those whose behavior was the most egregious, were not born evil and that they acted out of choice, and (ii) today’s professionals can learn about themselves and their own behavior by seeking to understand what motivated the German professionals.

Why does this matter?  Again, the history comes front of mind.  The professionals designed, implemented and executed what became the crimes of Nazi Germany.  Lawyers wrote and enforced the laws (Nazi Germany was a “legal state”); doctors designed the mechanization of death—beginning with the murders of the disabled; journalists became propagandists; businesses employed slave labor to operate the war machines; architects and engineers designed the death camps; clergy cooperated in allowing churches to become instrumentalities of the state.

Professionals matter.  Simple as that.

FASPE is not a genocide prevention program. We do not train professionals to be on the lookout for the next genocide. We do seek to display, with the vividness and clarity of history,the absolute responsibility of professionals to recognize and act on the influence that they have in their large and small communities.  On issues large and small.

We are gratified by the hundreds of applications, coming from hundreds of different institutions, that we receive for a limited number of fellowships. We are honored by our many partner institutions in the United States, Germany and Poland.  We are fascinated by the conversations that take place during our Fellowship trips. And, most, we are proud of our Fellows; as we enter our 11th year, FASPE Fellows are becoming leaders who are influencing their professions and their communities.

FASPE Fellows are continuing to explore the questions as they seek answers…We thank all of our supporters for making FASPE possible.

— David