Author(s): Philippe Sands
'A monumental achievement: profoundly personal, told with love, anger and great precision' - John le Carre When human rights lawyer Philippe Sands received an invitation to deliver a lecture in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, he began to uncover a series of extraordinary historical coincidences. It set him on a quest that would take him halfway around the world in an exploration of the origins of international law and the pursuit of his own secret family history, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg Trials. Part historical detective story, part family history, part legal thriller, Philippe Sands guides us between past and present as several interconnected stories unfold in parallel. The first is the hidden story of two Nuremberg prosecutors who discover, only at the end of the trials, that the man they are prosecuting may be responsible for the murder of their entire families in Nazi-occupied Poland, in and around Lviv. The two prosecutors, Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, were remarkable men, whose efforts led to the inclusion of the terms 'crimes against humanity' and 'genocide' in the judgement at Nuremberg. The defendant, Hans Frank, Hitler's personal lawyer and Governor-General of Nazi-occupied Poland, turns out to be an equally compelling character. The lives of these three men lead Sands to a more personal story, as he traces the events that overwhelmed his mother's family in Lviv and Vienna during the Second World War. At the heart of this book is an equally personal quest to understand the roots of international law and the concepts that have dominated Sands' work as a lawyer. Eventually, he finds unexpected answers to his questions about his family, in this powerful meditation on the way memory, crime and guilt leave scars across generations, and the haunting gaps left by the secrets of others.
Winner of Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016.
A monumental achievement: profoundly personal, told with love, anger and great precision John le Carre This remarkable book is partly a lawyer's quest to understand the roots of international law (one that is surprisingly fascinating for the non-legal reader) and a riveting family memoir which traces what happened to his mother's forebears - notably why his grandfather left his wife and daughter behind after the Anschluss. -- Caroline Sanderson THE BOOKSELLER In a triumph of astonishing research, Sands has brilliantly woven together several family stories which lead to the great denouement at the Nuremberg tribunal. No novel could possibly match such an important work of truth -- Antony Beevor An engrossing tale of family secrets and groundbreaking legal precedents. In a tense, riveting melding of memoir and history, international human rights lawyer Sands focuses on a subtle, and critical, debate that emerged from the Nuremberg trials: whether the Nazi defendants were guilty of crimes against humanity or of genocide. Two Polish-born lawyers, with influence on trial strategy, had strong opposing views. Hersch Lauterpacht, a professor of international law at Cambridge University, maintained that calling Nazi atrocities "crimes against humanity" would lead to protection of individual, fundamental human rights. Rafael Lemkin, who had fled Poland to a position at Duke University Law School, felt, with equal passion, that the murder of whole peoples must be called genocide, a word he coined to describe acts "directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of national groups. KIRKUS REVIEWS In a triumph of astonishing research, Sands has brilliantly woven together several family stories which lead to the great denouement at the Nuremberg tribunal. No novel could possibly match such an important work of truth. Antony Beevor
Philippe Sands is Professor of Law at University College London and a practising barrister at Matrix Chambers. He has been involved in many of the most important international cases of recent years, including Pinochet, Congo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq and Guantanamo. His previous books include LAWLESS WORLD and TORTURE TEAM. He is a frequent contributor to the FINANCIAL TIMES, GUARDIAN, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS and VANITY FAIR, makes regular appearances on radio and television, and serves on the boards of English PEN and the Hay Festival. @philippesands