Herbert Bernstein
Martha G. Price Visiting Professor of Law, 1983, Professor of Law, 1984-2001

Herbert Bernstein was a member of the Duke Law faculty for 17 years.  He taught in the areas of contracts, conflict of laws, insurance, comparative law, international organizations, and European Union law.  He also published widely on these subjects as well as business and international law.  Since 2002 the law school has held an annual Bernstein Memorial Lecture in Comparative Law.

Bernstein was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1930.  His childhood was profoundly impacted first by the economic hardships of the Great Depression, and later by the Nazi efforts to increasingly isolate the Jewish community from mainstream German society.  Some of Bernstein’s relatives managed to obtain travel visas to immigrate to other countries; others were eventually deported to camps in the east.  Bernstein’s own father was arrested and sent to a work camp outside Hamburg in 1942.  To escape the heavy Allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943, Bernstein and his mother fled to a farm in the country owned by a family friend.  They lived in the only available space, an empty pig sty.  Bernstein was required to join the Hitler Youth when he turned 14, and at age 15 he was notified that he had been drafted into the military.  However by that time the war was nearly over, and the organization and resources of the Nazi government were in shambles.  Bernstein never reported for duty.

Herbert Bernstein graduated from the Hamburg Law School in 1953 and began practice as a junior lawyer.  From 1956 to 1960 he was a research and teaching assistant at his alma mater.  In 1958 Bernstein became a regular member of the German bar and became affiliated with the Max-Planck-Institute of Foreign and Private International Law.  He obtained a Doctor of Laws from Hamburg University in 1962.  After completing an American JD at the University of Michigan in 1967, he taught for four years at the University of California Berkeley.  Bernstein returned to Hamburg to teach in 1971.  In 1983 he was the Duke Law Martha G. Price Visiting Professor of Law, and in 1984 he accepted a permanent position on the faculty.  He died unexpectedly in 2001. 


Duke University, School of Law, Bulletin of Duke University School of Law [serial]

Paul H. Haagen, A Hamburg Childhood: The Early Life of Herbert Bernstein, 13 Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law 7-59 (2003) [perma.cc/RR8J-XN5Q]

Herbert Bernstein
Historic Faculty