Philippe Sands has produced an extraordinary story involving his own family and two men of the Law (H.Lauterpacht and R.Lemkin) out of the same town in the midst of the dreadful crimes wrought by the Nazis - leading to the Nuremberg Trials of 1946 and its aftermath. Meticulously researched and foot-noted this is a stunning work made all the better by the author's humanity and warmth. I cannot recommend this work highly enough!
Phillipe Sands explores the Nuremberg War Crimes trials through the eyes of the interconnected lives of his family from Lvov, the families of Lauterpacht and Lempkin (the two men who respectively coined the phrases ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’) and the life of the Butcher of Occupied Poland, Hans Frank.
A masterly entwining of the personal stories of family and the development of international humanitarian law at Nuremberg ,and the vilest of regimes,the Nazi power elite. The research which has gone into this book is wonderful,and the characters uncovered by this research and personal memories live on the pages.
British International rights lawyer Phillipe Sands's new book, "East West Street: On the Origins of 'Genocide' and 'Crimes Against Humanity'", is a disjointed look at what I can only say are several interesting subjects, put together in one book. Sands - the maker of an excellent documentary - "What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy" - combines a look at his own family's flight from Vienna to Paris, the lives of the two men who coined the terms, "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity", the life of Hans Frank (the "Butcher of Poland"), as well as the Nuremberg Trials. This is a lot to cover in one book, and the basis of it all is the town of Lemberg/Lviv/Lwow in today's Poland.
Phillipe Sands' mother's family was originally from Zolkiew, a small town near the larger city of Lviv. His grandfather eventually left the area and moved to Vienna after WW1. It was there that he met his wife-to-be, and prospered as the owner of liquor stores. The family's story is the same as many others who were bullied and beaten after the Anschluss in 1938, but Sands' grandparents and mother were able to find safety of a sort in Paris and survived the war. Most of the other family members were killed in the camps or on the killing fields.
But also from the Lviv area and growing up at the same time as Sands' grandfather were two men - Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht - both lawyers who were able to flee the Nazis. Lemkin eventually coined the word "genocide" and Lauterpacht, "Crimes Against Humanity". The use of both words - but in particular "genocide" - were used at the Nuremberg Trials.
Another section of the book deals with Nazi lawyer, Hans Frank, who ruled over most of WW2 Poland. Millions of people were murdered in the camps and Frank was condemned to death at Nuremberg. Sands' examines the trial records to show "genocide" was used...by some judges and lawyers. Frank's young son, Niklas, and Horst, the son of Otto von Wachter, grew up with widely differing views of their fathers' and what they did in the war. They're the subjects of Sands' film, "What Our Fathers Did". (I'm linking to the review of the documentary at the bottom of this review)
This review has to be the most difficult review I've ever written. If the review is disjointed - and it is - the book the review is based on is all over the place, too. BUT, it is an excellent book. Somehow Phillipe Sands pulls it all together and if the reader is left with, "huh" at the end, he'll have learned a lot. Sands is a good writer - and film maker - and I have to believe the book is as good as it can be.