As a student in Jewish schools much of her life, Skokie resident Hanah Brasch has learned about the horrors of the Holocaust and war crimes against the Jewish people.
That makes it especially meaningful to her that come mid-August, she will head to The Netherlands for an internship with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, supporting their work of prosecuting war criminals from the Balkans military conflict of the early 1990s.
"We learned about the Holocaust in such detail, " she said. "It's hard for me to understand how it happened even once. I was surprised to hear how these things happened in modern times.
"The world promised it would never happen again."
The non-legal internship position will allow Brasch, a student at Lander College for Women (LCW) at Touro University in New York, to explore a possible career in international law, while playing an active role in pursuit of justice.
She was born in 1991, and was just a baby when the atrocities of the Balkans war were being committed. The tribunal started its work prosecuting them in 1993.
Brasch attended Solomon Schechter Day School at its Skokie and Northbrook locations as a child, as well as the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago before coming to LCW, a Manhattan undergraduate program for Jewish women.
Brasch, who will be working in the communications department, saw the demanding internship as a way to pursue justice while exploring if international law was a career that would suit her. She's pursuing a dual major in political science and English.
An LCW class in civil liberties that focused on the Bill of Rights and how American rights have evolved over time had her hooked, according to a Touro College spokesman. This past year, she participated in a non-legal internship in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. There she assisted paralegals, interviewing relatives of those prosecuted to assess their ability to pay bail. She attended court and even got to hear Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan speak.
There are approximately 100 internship positions available each year at the ICTY and they are always filled, according to Alexandra Byrne, the internship coordinator for the ICTY. Most of the candidates come from the former Yugoslavia, the United States and Europe.
“It is quite competitive and only the most qualified candidates are selected,” she said. “Communications interns like Hanah write press releases, news items and conduct research for the outreach media and web unit offices, among other duties.”
The tribunal prosecutes those who committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflicts that consumed the Balkans during the late 1980s and 1990s in the aftermath of the former Soviet Union’s dissolution.
Brasch will spend her next semester in The Hague; she will coordinate her work there with a course of independent study set up through LCW.
She's looking forward to it.
"There has to be some way to find a way for different cultures and ethnicities to coexist," she said.