East West Street by Philippe Sands review – putting genocide into words

[From The Guardian]

1703A compelling family memoir intersects with the story of the Jewish legal minds who sowed the seeds for human rights law at the Nuremberg trials.

On 20 November 1945, exactly 10 infernal years after the Nazis’ Nuremberg laws had instituted the legality of antisemitism – robbing Jews of citizenship, rights, property, and eventually of life itself – the ancient Bavarian city was host to the war crimes trials that gave birth to the modern system of international justice.

For the first time in history, national leaders were indicted for their murderous acts before an international court. Hermann Göring and other leading Nazis such as the “butcher of Poland”, Hans Frank, Hitler’s preeminent legal adviser and the head of occupied Poland’s “general government”, met their ultimate judgment. It was here, too, that the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”, so central to contemporary political life, had their first courtroom airing.

Philippe Sands begins this important and engrossing book in Nuremberg. The trial of Frank provides its climactic moment. It will come as no surprise that Sands is a leading human rights lawyer who was involved in Chilean dictator Pinochet’s extradition trial, as well as in many key cases that have made their way to the international criminal court. The surprise is that even when charting the complexities of law, Sands’s writing has the intrigue, verve and material density of a first-rate thriller.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Holocaust testimonies, Literature

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