East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity”

Philippe Sands. Knopf, $32.50 (448p) ISBN 978-0-385-35071-6
Sands (Torture Team), a human rights lawyer and professor of international law at University College London, takes readers on a labyrinthine journey into the personal histories of three men whose lives were forever altered by the Nuremberg trials of October 1946. Two of them—Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht—were founding luminaries of the new field of international human rights law; the third, Hans Frank, was Hitler’s personal legal counsel. Sands intertwines their stories with his own tragic family history, and seeks to illuminate the guiding principles of humanitarian law while unearthing the forgotten stories of the men who fought for its establishment in the wake of Nazi devastation. Part detective story and part heart-wrenching family history, the teeming narrative is anchored in the Ukrainian city of L’viv (alternately Lwów, L’vov, or Lemberg), hometown of Lemkin and Lauterpacht, and an emblem of the changing face of 20th-century Europe. Yet despite this attention to place, the book feels curiously unmoored, with the personalities and ambitions of its three main characters getting lost under a glut of biographical detail. Sands clearly revels in discovering long-lost family secrets; unfortunately, he also loses sight of the innovations in legal theory that Lemkin and Lauterpacht helped usher in, the ostensible focus on which is arguably the book’s most original aspect. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 05/24/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5047-1475-4
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