Whitney R. Harris Memorial

Words of Tribute from Friends and Colleagues of Whitney Harris

In my capacity as founding director of what is now the Whitney Harris World Law Institute, I had the privilege of working with Whitney during those early years of the Institute and getting to know him and his loving wife, Anna. By now it has become trite to observe what an inspiration Whitney was to all of us, but that is indeed the case – a larger than life figure with limitless talent, a big heart, and a self-effacing, down-to-earth personal style that would have given no indication of his extraordinary accomplishments. But with all that, I have to say that my single most vivid memory was of his 90th birthday party, where Stan Musial played “Take me out to the ball game” for Whitney on his harmonica, and where Whitney’s son admiringly recounted how, the day before, the then 90-year-old legend had played 18 holes of golf, followed by dinner, dancing, and swimming, before unsuccessfully trying to convince his exhausted friends and family to go out for some walking. It was both touching and uplifting to see the mutual love, respect, and admiration that Whitney and Anna so obviously felt for one another. As for me, I feel proud to be one of those whom Whitney called “little buddy.”

Steve Legomsky
The John S. Lehmann University Professor
Washington University School of Law

A Personal Remembrance and Tribute

I first met Whitney in 2000 within a few months after I had joined the Washington University law faculty. Steve Legomsky introduced us at the inaugural conference of the Institute that would soon bear Whitney’s name. As I recall, Steve noted as usual Whitney’s prominent role as a prosecutor in the main Nuremberg Trials. Two years later, just before Whitney’s 90th birthday, the Dean of the Law School, Joel Seligman, asked if I would be willing to succeed Steve as the Director of the newly named Whitney R. Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies. I thus attended the celebration of Whitney’s 90th birthday as the director-designate of his Institute. On that occasion, I learned the fuller range of Whitney’s interests, extraordinary contributions, and personal warmth. Surrounded by friends and family, he glowed with pleasure and affection. His enduring friendships were evident. Stan Musial played the harmonica. One by one, family members testified to at Whitney’s love of family, good counsel, and energy. Throughout the celebration, members of the community who had known Whitney and Anna for many years expressed in turn their affection and gratitude.

That even I also discovered shared experiences and interests. Whitney was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest where I had lived and worked for most of my career. He also began his university education where I ended mine-- in Seattle at the University of Washington. His first trip outside of the United States was to Japan in 1933, and throughout his life, he retained a deep interest in Japan, serving at one point as President of the Japan-America Society of St. Louis.

No one could have been more supportive of the Institute and its programs during my five years as Director. Whitney seemed to revel in the diverse seminars and conferences we organized and sponsored, whether comparison of professional baseball in the United States and Japan “Mitts Across the Pacific” to the debate over the return of the Elgin marbles and other cultural artifacts of the conference on “Imperialism, Art and Restitution”. I was equally privileged to have been able to work with him as he both inspired and led the planning effort for the last conference of my term—the Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Judgment for which, thanks to Darryl Barker and his remarkably able audio visual staff, we have a permanent record.  Whitney put heart and soul into this conference, which by all accounts was one of the most substantive as well as memorable of all of the Nuremberg judgment celebrations.

I was privileged—indeed, favored-- to have known Whitney, to have worked with him, to have shared time with him and Anna, and, above all, to have had a glimpse of his kindness, generosity, and the good will he extended so graciously to all around him.

John O. Haley
William R. Orthwein Distinguished Professor of Law
Washington University School of Law

I hope to be able to pay tribute to my old friend and colleague at the Chautauqua conference in August. I have noted that the theme this year will be the crime of aggression, a topic close to Whitney's great heart.

It would be most gratifying if the Kampala review conference in June would recognize that view of Justice Jackson, Telford Taylor, and countless others – That the most important contribution of the Nuremberg trials was the recognition that aggression was the supreme international crime for which the responsible leaders should be held accountable in an international criminal court. I hope that sound conclusion will be confirmed at Kampala as some deterrent to future wars.

With Whitney gone, I am the lone Nuremberg survivor holding up the Nuremberg banner. I have entered my 91st year and I know that we are going to need all the help we can get to remove the current impunity from the ICC Statute. Whitney would join with me in expressing appreciation for your help in supporting that noble goal.

The highest tribute one can pay to the memory of my friend and colleague Whtiney Harris is to cite his own conclusion about the Nuremberg trial. In his book TYRANNY ON TRIAL, he quotes the IMT decisions that to initiate a war of aggression is the supreme international crime and that law applies equally to victor and vanquished. In Whitney's own concluding words: "The initiating and waging of aggressive war is now indisputably criminal. No more important decision was ever made by any court," (p.536)
May Whitney's wisdom and vision guide us all to future world peace.

Benjamin B. Ferencz
Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case.

I am very sorry to hear the sad news. … Whitney stood very firm on the video-clip that captured his words for the conference, and it is nice for us all to have this beautiful last image of him to remember. I am so pleased that he lived to see the results of the Crimes Against Humanity conference. We will all remember him as a remarkable personality, and a charming, warm person whom we will all miss.

Kind regards,
Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert
International Criminal Court

Whitney Harris lived through a period of great historic importance in which he played a significant role. Decades from now, we will reread the proceedings of the Nuremberg trial, or see him in the films of it, and recall his charm and dignity. He was a lucky man to have had the opportunity to make such a contribution. We owe him a great debt for having spent the rest of his life both commemorating and building upon on that great achievement.

William Schabas
Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights
National University of Ireland, Galway

It was one the privileges of my professional career to know and befriend Whitney Harris. We first met in 1995 in Nuremberg at the seminar held by the Mayor of Nuremberg to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials in which Whitney played a leading role. I will never forget Whitney's wonderful voice, resonating in the very courtroom where the trial of the Nazi leaders was held, quoting the memorable words of Justice Robert Jackson. No one present was not moved. Whitney never ceased to work for international justice and the ending of impunity for war criminals. It was also a privilege to work with Whitney on the still on-going project to draft an International Convention on Crimes against Humanity. Whitney lived a full and productive life until the end. I send my heartfelt condolences to Anna and the other members of his family. I know they will find comfort in the love and life's work of dear Whitney.

Richard J. Goldstone
Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
Former Chief Prosecutor of the UN Internatiuonal Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda

I was saddened to hear about the death of your beloved founder and colleague, Whitney Harris. I truly extend my sympathy to his wife and to the Institute. I'm sure that the foundation, which he squarely built, has trembled during these last few hours. I want to express what an honor it was for me to be in the presence of such a forefather of international legal practice.

Patricia Viseur Sellers
Humanitarian Law Consultant, International Criminal Law

Please accept my empathy at this time.

Warm regards from Berkeley,
Morten Bergsmo
Senior Researcher, University of Oslo, Law Faculty
Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley
Consultant, ICC
Director, Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law

I am very sorry to hear this news, but I am grateful to you for letting me know. My warm thoughts to the family, to you, and colleagues at Washington University. He was an amazing guy, and they just don’t make them like that anymore.

Richard Dicker
Director, International Justice Program
Human Rights Watch

To say that Whitney Harris “never met a stranger” would be an understatement.  Whitney was a gentleman of the first order and always gracious with his time.  I met him several times over the years, but will always remember our first meeting in St. Louis at an Art Restitution symposium sponsored by his Institute.  He immediately approached me as a new young scholar in the field, invited me to lunch and made me feel part of the greater academy that was coalescing around his project at Wash U.  The last time we were together was in Germany in December 2008.  When we rose to address the audience in the Great Hall at Philipps University in Marburg, and that rich baritone began to command the room, people fell silent and listened with care to what he had to say.  This was one of Whitney’s great abilities – the combination of a humble and accessible personality with the sweep of his advocacy skills.  As I assisted him from the building that night out onto the cobblestones of that wonderful little town with his wife and our friends John Barrett and Christoph Safferling, I recalled thinking what a great man he was and remained.  And that he came from a time when giants still walked the earth.  The Jacksons, Roosevelts, Churchills and Marshalls.  And that, unfortunately, we are not destined to see their like again.  Goodspeed Whitney!

Michael J. Kelly, Professor of Law
Associate Dean for Faculty Research & Int'l Programs
Creighton University School of Law

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. As I mentioned last night, Leila, I was so moved by your tribute to Whitney Harris. I thought it captured his extraordinary contributions, deep humanity, and impact on you and Washington University so well. It was beautifully written and a wonderful celebration of his life.

Hari M. Osofsky
Associate Professor
Washington & Lee University School of Law

I was deeply saddened to read this morning of Whitney R. Harris's passing. He was a giant in international criminal justice and a person who represented throughout his life all the very best in human affairs. I know you, along with the students and faculty at Washington University School of Law, are proud that his legacy will live on through the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. Our world is a better place because of Whitney and the responsibility now falls upon each of us to carry his vision forward.

Stuart D. Yoak, Ph.D.
Executive Director and Lecturer in Professional Ethics
The Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values Washington University in St. Louis

It feels like the end of an era to hear that Whitney Harris is no longer with us; as he liked to say, he was the last “podium prosecutor” from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.  I first met Whitney in 2006, at Leila Sadat’s wonderful conference on legacies of Nuremberg, and then on several other occasions after I came on board teaching the History of International Law at Washington University.  At the 2006 conference, a film was shown with a shot of an incredibly handsome, dark-haired young man at the podium in Nuremberg’s famous courtroom 600.  I was familiar with these photos and started to applaud . . . alone!  “That’s Whitney!” Anna called out – it was almost as if no one could quite believe that this courtly, older gentleman had once been so very glamorous, as well.  People actually gasped before applauding. It was always a thrill to sense such a direct, personal connection with the IMT in his presence.  You could feel the freshness of his interest in and commitment to international justice, even in his mid-90s; the young people with whom he continued to meet felt this commitment as well.
More recently, Whitney shared with us how much he was moved by Professor Sadat’s Crimes Against Humanity initiative in his words of encouragement to kick off the Washington University-based phase of that important project.  Each time we saw each other, he remembered that I had written a book on Nuremberg and to my astonishment, actually seemed to have read it. The study of the main Nuremberg Trial enters a new, more archival phase with his passing.

Elizabeth Borgwardt
Associate Professor of History and Associate Professor of Law (by courtesy)
Washington University in St Louis

I am all the more grateful that you brought Mr. Harris to speak to our International Criminal Law class last Spring. Thank you again for doing so, and please pass along our class' appreciation to his family.

Joe Whitfield
Third-year law student
Washington University School of Law

I am very sad to learn of this news. My thoughts and prayers will be with the Harris family, and please extend my condolences to Anna, his family, and all his friends.

With all good wishes,
Raj Bhala
Rice Distinguished Professor,
Director, S.J.D. Program,
Director, Two-Year J.D. Program for Foreign Trained Lawyers
The University of Kansas School of Law

To My Hero, Mentor, and Friend Whitney R. Harris

I first met Whitney Harris in March of 2004 at an event at Cardozo Law School where we were both speaking. Though I had known of him as a giant in the field of international humanitarian law, I was keen to extend my hand in friendship to him and pay my respects. At the time I was the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. When I went over to say hello, Whitney stood up from the table grabbed my hand and then hugged me saying he had been following my work and thanked me for my service to humanity. I was speechless, but that was Whitney’s style, open, friendly, supportive, and kind. It was that kindness that I will hold close to my heart when I remember him.

Since that evening, I have worked with, talked to, and sought advice from my new friend. It has been priceless. Of particular note was his support for the annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs held at the Chautauqua Institution each year, a place where the current and former international prosecutors, from Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court, meet to discuss key issues in the field of modern international criminal law. Whitney attended the first two and even wrote a poem in commemoration of the first dialog. I will end this short humble remembrance with parts of that poem that he read to us in August of 2007: The tyrant must be forced to end his tyranny. The aggressor must be punished for his aggressions. And law, not force, must rule the world.

The Romans had a phrase; he who has friends has treasure. You were a rich man indeed my friend. Rest in perfect peace Whitney.

David M. Crane
Former Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone
Professor, Syracuse University College of Law

Meeting Whitney was one of the big and unforgettable moments of my work on international criminal justice – humbling and inspiring at once. He will be missed, and we will all treasure his memory.

Ambassador Christian Wenaweser
Permanent Representative of the Principality of Liechtenstein
President – Assembly of the States Parties to the International Criminal Court

I join the rest of you in expressing true sadness indeed at the passing Whitney R. Harris. I was lucky to have met him and exchanged thoughts with him within the margins of one of the IHL dialogues at Chatauqua. A brilliant mind and undoubtedly, one of the monuments of international criminal justice. He has contributed greatly and has inspired so many of us to continue to plough on. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

Fatou Bensouda
Deputy Prosecutor, International Criminal Court

It is with a feeling of profound admiration and gratitude that I join in the many praises expressed so far in memory of the late Mr. Whitney R. Harris. His contribution to the development of the international criminal law and justice system was enormous and spanned over 65 years; pioneering the prosecution of war crimes in Nuremberg as a young lawyer and leading its first case, where he was confronted with the full horrors of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Not only was he a talented lawyer, teacher, and writer, but he was also a brilliant orator, and this combination convinced his audiences - generations of students, lawyers, diplomats - of the necessity to build an international judicial system to promote justice and law for the future benefit of mankind. Mr. Harris was one of the great spiritual fathers of the international criminal tribunals, in particular, the International Criminal Court, of which he was a passionate supporter; and those of us attending the Review Conference in Kampala later this month will be honoured to pay tribute to him and to continue his tireless pursuit for international criminal justice.

Silvana Arbia
International Criminal Court

Thank you for sharing Prof. Sadat’s beautiful tribute to a great American. Very shortly before Whitney’s death, I wrote to him and Anna. The middle paragraph of my letter reported on the Institute’s recent conference at the Brookings Institution: “I should also tell you that the Whitney Harris Institute’s Crimes Against Humanity conference here in Washington was an enormous success, thanks to the superb work of Leila Sadat and her dedicated colleagues. It was hugely inspiring to see Whitney’s handsome visage and the Harris Institute’s name on the big monitors in the room throughout the two-day parley. As you may have heard from John Barrett, the showing of the video-recording of Whitney’s stirring call to action brought down the house. In fact, it had such a powerful impact on the participants that Leila decided to show it again, on the second day. Once again, the video generated tumultuous applause. It must be very satisfying to know that Whitney’s remarkable life’s work in service of humanity will truly go on for decades to come as the scholars and prosecutors he has so deeply inspired (myself certainly included!) continue to fight for peace through law, and that it will go on forever via the extraordinary institute that bears his name.”

Best wishes, 
Eli Rosenbaum
Director, U.S. DOJ Office of Special Investigations

Let me join our colleagues in expressing my deepest regrets over the loss of a pillar of international criminal justice. He may have departed from us, but his memory will linger in our hearts and his works memorialize in the annals of history. It is owed to his memory, for us not to relent in the quest for justice for all. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

Warmest Regards,
Joseph F. Kamara
Deputy Prosecutor
The Special Court for Sierra Leone

We are deeply saddened by the loss of this outstanding champion of justice.

Best regards,
Stefan Barriga
Mission of Liechtenstein

Just this past week I was talking to an audience in the course of Holocaust remembrance and mentioned how privileged I had been to meet Whitney and how impressed I was with his unflinching dedication to justice. It is a very sad news indeed. I look forward to honoring Whitney's memory in Kampala and in the mean time please extend my deepest condolences to his family.

Robert Petit
Former Chief Co-Prosecutor at the ECCC

I drew inspiration from Whitney Harris through the years. He was my beacon into the past. I will forever remember his fortitude, wisdom, commanding voice, and gracious smile. Once, while in St. Louis, I dropped by his home simply to say hello. He was battling cancer, and, at first, I thought I had made a terrible mistake. But he smiled, invited me into his grand study, and held forth for an hour talking about the significance of Nuremberg in his life and the need to keep waging the good fight for international justice. One of the highest honors of my life was when Whitney told me know how much he admired what I had done in our common cause. Coming from him, that was all I needed to stay the course. I mourn his passing, but I celebrate his noble life.

David Scheffer
U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001)

My sympathy to the family and friends of the late Whitney Harris. He was a great man, lawyer and writer.

Ambassador Zvonimir Paul Separovic
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Croatia
Former Croatian Ambassador to the United Nations

I am adding this comment as someone who worked with Mr. Harris in a capacity outside of his work as a historical lecturer, lawyer and living legend. He, together with his first wife Jane, helped found Hope House, which provides transitional housing for homeless families. It was during my six years as a member of the Hope House Board of Directors that I saw firsthand the genuine concern that Mr.Harris had for families caught in the desperate state of homelessness. He and Jane did far more than merely donate money, they actively represented the interest of the families at Hope House and provided much needed behind the scenes advocacy to help Hope House successfully move homeless families from dependence to independence. The media rightfully heralds his incredible work as a Nuremberg prosecutor, successful nationally known lawyer and lecturer on the horrors of The Holocaust. These notable accomplishments give him a well deserved place in our nation's history. I however, will also remember him as a powerful person at the top of St. Louis high society, who took the time to extend his strong and compassionate hand to those who found themselves at society's bottom.

 Honorable Judge David C. Mason
22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St Louis, Missouri

My condolences to all there. Whitney Harris and you will be in my thoughts and prayers on May 23.

Whit Gray
Emeritus Professor University of Michigan
Visiting Professor Fordham
Visiting Professor Peking University

I am saddened by the loss of Mr. Harris. While I didn’t have the pleasure of getting to know Whitney Harris personally, I know that the institution that bears his name is devoted to advancing the cause of justice and the rule of the law across the world.
Anupam Chander
Professor of Law and Martin Luther King, Jr. Research Scholar,
University of California, Davis

Whitney Harris inspired those fighting the seemingly never-ending battle to end impunity, and, while he has now left us, his inspiration has not. I feel privileged to have met him.

Laura M. Olson, President
Blackletter Consulting, LLC

He was one of the most generous philanthropists and his death is a great loss to a world in need of humane understanding and support.

Professor Johan van der Vyver
Emory University School of Law

My wife, Natalya, and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Anna Harris, and all at the Harris Institute on the passing of Whitney Harris. Thanks to my good relationship with John Haley and Leila Sadat, we had the honor and pleasure to sit twice at the same dinner table with Whitney and Anna Harris over the last six years and we will never forget the warmth, true friendliness, intellect and vitality he exuded despite his years.

Stephen C. Thaman
Professor of Law, Co-director, Center for International and Comparative Law
Saint Louis University

Sad news indeed. A sole and important legal link to the past is now gone. You phrased it well in your in memoriam. Keep up all the good work!

Krister Thelin
Member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Whitney was soft spoken but always appeared with dignity and authority and displayed extraordinary intelligence. He was truly an elegant man, eloquent, and steadfast in his pursuit of justice for those who were wronged in WWII and in subsequent wars. In his private life he and the late Jane Harris devoted an extraordinary amount of time helping innumerable charities. We will all truly miss him. There will never be another Whitney Harris. God bless him. May he rest in loving peace.

Judy Feldworth
American Croatian Relief Project
St. Louis, MO

In Remembrance of Whitney Harris

When I met Whitney Harris, I was amazed at his joie de vivre, humbleness, and love, not only for his country, but for the world. His smile and the twinkle in his eye were genuine, and when that gaze fell on you, you knew you were important to him. I was inspired by his fight for life, both his own life and the lives of all people everywhere. While he remembered the past, his outlook very much focused on the future and what we could do next to ensure the foundations of peace and justice. Whitney Harris knew that we could make a difference. He made a difference. He lived a life that is an inspiration to all. From my desk, I can look on Whitney’s bronze bust each day while I work. His noble profile gives me courage because I also knew the man behind that profile. It was my privilege and honor to know him and to work with him. I miss Whitney each and every day.

Linda McClain
Assistant Director, Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute

If you would like to submit a personal statement or memory about Mr. Harris for posting on this Web site, please e-mail LInda McClain lmcclain@wustl.edu.