Belle Mayer Zeck (1919-2006)
Belle Mayer Zeck, a longtime resident of Suffern, was a founding trustee of Rockland Community College and served as vice-chair for twenty-five years. She became one of the first female municipal attorneys in New York State when she served as town attorney for Ramapo in 1963. Zeck was admitted to the bar in 1940, soon after the men left to fight in World War II. “My legal career was lucky,” she said in 1970. “Until 1940, women lawyers had to take secretarial jobs. Opportunities for women lawyers were limited. The onset of the war gave me the opportunity to forge ahead.” When she was unanimously elected president of the Bar Association in 1970, she was only the second woman to hold that position. At the time, there were 350 attorneys in Rockland, and only 2 percent of them were women.
With the exception of seven years during World War II, Zeck practiced law in Suffern. In 1945, she was sent to London as a representative of the U.S. Treasury Department. In 1947, she was lent to the War Department to help prosecute twenty-two top officials of I. G. Farben, the giant chemical company that manufactured, among other things, the deadly gas used in the Nazi concentration camps. She was the first female lawyer at Nuremburg to appear in court at the actual trial. She married William A. Zeck, who was also a prosecutor at Nuremberg.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Zeck was deeply involved in local and state politics. She was a state committeewoman for Rockland County and a member of the New York State Democratic Committees on Rules and Platform. In 1960 she ran, unsuccessfully, for the New York State Assembly. She received innumerable awards and certificates of merit. In 1996, she addressed the prosecutors and summer interns of the Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, in Washington, DC, about the I. G. Farben trial and received a plaque inscribed, “For Nuremberg Prosecutor Extraordinaire.”