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

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  6,510 ratings  ·  704 reviews
A profound and profoundly important book—a moving personal detective story, an uncovering of secret pasts, and a book that explores the creation and development of world-changing legal concepts that came about as a result of the unprecedented atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich.

East West Street looks at the personal and intellectual evolution of the two men who simultaneous
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Start your review of East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity"
Unnatural Law

Philippe Sands offers a new theory of law packaged in a new literary genre in East West Street. Call them both 'phenomenological' or, perhaps less pretentiously, 'unnatural' because neither conforms with traditional presumptions in the law or literature. Both the theory and the genre break the rules. Specifically, the content of East West Street implies that the development of law is not a continuous rational process but a lumpy, messy confluence of emotion, sentiment and political
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was a fascinating read for me and I loved every page turned in this memorable book. Philippe Sands traces the tragic secret history of his own family and we feel as if we are alongside him in his journey.
A personal family history painstainkilly researched and beautifully written by the author and a history of the legal concepts that were devised to deal with the historically unprecedented horrors of the Holocaust. East West Street weaves together a collective narrative which is focused on
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this book , author Phillippe Sands looks back to the city of Lviv, known as Lemberg (as well as many other names) and located variously in the Austro Hungarian Empire, Poland, occupied by the Soviets and, after 1944, part of Ukraine. Lviv, or Lemberg, was home to three men before the Second World War. One was the author’s grandfather, Leon Buchholz. Another was Hersch Lauterpacht, a professor of International Law, born in Zolkiew, near Lemberg in 1877. The last was Rafael Lemkin, a professor ...more
Please read the GR book description. Rewriting what is written there is silly. It is informative and thorough and has only a few sentences of a purely laudatory nature aimed at increasing sale of the book. These sentences are easy to spot, for example the last two.

If the detailed GR book description is too much of a pain to read, I doubt you will enjoy the book. The book is much more dense than its description!

East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity" combines
Lyn Elliott
The opening quote is from Joseph Roth’s The Wandering Jews (1927):
The little town lies in the middle of a great plain… It begins with little huts and ends with them. After a while the huts are replaced by houses. Streets begin. One runs from north to south, the other from east to west.

The east-west street of the title is where Sands' grandfather, Leon Buchholz, lived with his family in as small village near Lemberg, then in the Austr-Hungarian province of Galicia.

The city we now know as Lviv pl
Mikey B.
This book is about two lawyers, Hersch Lauterpacht (1897 – 1960) and Rafael Lemkin (1900 – 1959), who grew up in what is now called Lviv in the western part of Ukraine. Lviv was formerly called Lemberg, Lvov, or Lwow depending on who had control (Poland, Ukraine, Soviet Union, or Germany during the Second World War).

Both Lauterpacht and Lemkin began their studies of law in Lviv. They were both Jewish and large parts of their families were slaughtered during the Holocaust. This also happened to t
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
East West Street is an interesting mix of autobiography, history and legal theory. The author’s grandparents were Jews from a town in Eastern Europe that had gone through various names and been part of different countries during the 20th century. Sands tells the story of how his grandparents and mother survived World War II. At the same time, he writes about two legal scholars originally from the same town who developed the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity as two different ways o ...more
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Part historical inquiry, part family history, this book is a fascinating exploration of the lives of three men against the backdrop of one of the most horrifying periods in human history.

The level of research Sands has put into this book is unquestionable, using a wealth of varied evidence, including interviews, photos, letters, and court testimony. The author maintains a rather dispassionate tone through most of the book; yet his clinical statements about Nazi atrocities and the ever increasin
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important books I have read ever!!!
A deeply moving and shocking piece of literature..

Philippe Sands an international jewish lawyer try to dig up his family secret history..
He uncovers the path which will lead him halfway across the world and even to the Nuremberg trial..

He does magnify two Nuremberg prosecutors:
Lemkin and Lauterpacht..
The two of them invented and gave birth to crimes of genocide, and crimes against humanity!!

My paperback edition has lots of pictures and documents
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was totally unprepared for how good a book this was. Let me try to explain.

At one level, this is an intellectual history of the evolution of two concepts central to international law since World War II and the Holocaust and still relevant today in the consideration of human rights abuses in conflicts all around the world. These are the ideas of "crimes against humanity" and "genocide". The author is a legal scholar who had participated in some of the recent proceeding regarding war crimes in t
Back in 2010 the barrister Philippe Sands was asked to give a lecture at Lviv University in Ukraine on the subjects of genocide and crimes against humanity. This gave him the opportunity to visit the city, and maybe discover more about his maternal grandfather, a man who he knew so little about. Sands knew he was Jewish, had moved to Vienna as war enveloped Europe in 1914 and then moved onto Paris after the Nazis entered Austria. When he probed further he discovered that there were scant details ...more
A century ago there was no such thing as international criminal law that could be applied to members of national governments. The principle of national sovereignty was paramount and governments could do whatever they wanted to their own citizens. Philippe Sands tells the unexpectedly fascinating story of how the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” came to be developed and applied, however inconsistently, in international law.

There’s an extra dimension to the book in that the two
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
More interesting than riveting. The official blurb goes into so much detail I don't think I could do a better job -
East West Street looks at the personal and intellectual evolution of the two men who simultaneously originated the ideas of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity," both of whom, not knowing the other, studied at the same university with the same professors, in a city little known today that was a major cultural center of Europe, "the little Paris of Ukraine," a city variously cal
Absolutely brilliant. Written like a thriller, this is the true account of the birth of the notions of genocide and crimes against humanity and their entry into the legal realm. This book is beautiful enough as a story of human beings, but it is invaluable as a history of international law. Sands writes in a captivating tone, changing between fast-paced and mellow prose according to the subject he is dealing with, often on the same page. The telling on the Nuremberg Trials is, again, outstanding ...more
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
East West Street – A Profoundly Personal Story

On the 13th April 1940 in Skałat, my Great Grandmother was arrested by officers of the NKVD for the given reason her husband was a Police Officer in the border town of Podwołoczyska to the right of the river Zbruch and her son was in the Polish Army fighting for the enemy (Poland). She was transported to Siberia, in cattle trucks, that the following year would be utilised by the Nazi regime of Hans Frank in Galicia.

Skałat is 92 miles to the east of
Tanja Berg
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is a deeply personal account of the Nuremberg trial. All the main character ties to the author's own life and more so, to that of his grandfather Leon. Most of Leon's family were lost to German racial politics. One of the defendants in the trial was Hans Frank, the governor general of Leon's hometown Lemberg.

Before the Nuremberg trials, no leaders of any country had had to face an international court before, to answer for their actions. No one in Turkey was ever charged with killing 1,5 mi
Cold War Conversations Podcast
Part family history, part legal history.

Dominic Sands is a human rights and his family history links him with the holocaust and two key characters behind the war crimes trial at Nuremberg and the legal precedents set subsequently.

Sands’ exploration of his family history is the most compelling part of the book, particularly his meetings with the sons of former Nazis. The legal history sections whilst important do drag sometimes.

Overall a fascinating journey into the past with much relevance for
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Please do read Mikey b’s review on this book. I rely on him to guide me to stellar history books. This was excellent. Heartbreaking and in some ways hopeful. Sands runs parallel stories here. He seeks a historical understanding of the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity while also researching his family of origin. It’s a rare event for a non fiction book to bring me to tears but I found the conclusion of this book to be incredibly moving. Highly recommended.
Kimba Tichenor
Phillippe Sands, a professor of law at University College London, has written a meticulously researched study on the origins of the legal concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The book opens by drawing a clear distinction between the terms, noting how despite their seeming complementarity that they draw on two distinct understandings of rights. "Crimes against humanity" originates in the idea of the rights of the individual, while "genocide" is rooted in the notion of the rights of t ...more
Kathe Coleman
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
East West Street by Philippe Sands
In 2010 the author was invited by the law faculty of the University of Lviv to deliver a lecture on his works involving crimes against humanity and genocide. He accepted knowing that it would be the perfect opportunity to find the unanswered questions about his grandfather Leon Buchholtz. The narrative primarily follows four people and their families: Leon Buchholz, his grandfather; Hersh Lauterpacht, a professor and lawyer who was the British rep at the Nurembe
Of all the books I've read thus far this year, "EAST WEST STREET: On the Origins of 'Genocide' and 'Crimes Against Humanity' " is perhaps the most powerfully affecting and well-written. At times, as I read deeply into this book, it felt as if I was reading a family history, mystery novel, and story of the development of 2 key legal concepts from 2 remarkable men from Poland (Hersh Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin) which revolutionized the study and practice of international law - with respect to hu ...more
Bruce Katz
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
This marvelous book resists description. It is sui generis -- a creature of its own, mixing memoir, Holocaust history, legal history, and even mystery. Before I say anything more, let me make clear that "East West Street" is anything but dry and academic. Rather, it is spirited and deeply engaging and deeply personal. It is perhaps a cliche to say that a work of history 'reads like a novel,' but the phrase is appropriate here.

The narrative unfolds along several axes that are at times discrete,
Judith Johnson
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent. I won't repeat the many reviews of this book, but would add that it is a hugely important book which I can only recommend (am doing and will continue to do so) to everyone I know. Gitta Sereny's Into That Darkness, a deeply-harrowing book, would in my opinion serve as a significant companion-read. But warn you, reading the latter book at bedtime will make for very disturbed nights, better to read in the day if you can. ...more
Maine Colonial
I’m an amateur student of WWII and Holocaust history, but I wasn’t aware of just how novel a concept genocide and crimes against humanity were when they were used against the Nuremberg Trial defendants. Previously, the state of international law was that one country had no say in what another country did within its borders, no matter how horrific.

Two men, Lemkin and Lauterpacht, who studied law at Lviv University (though not together) worked for years on these concepts, disagreeing on whether ge
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When you studied history but have a rather limited understanding of law and the evolution of human rights (like me), this book would be an excellent starting point to understand where these two areas meet. The book inspired me as I found out that the idea of protection of an individual was largely shaped in Lviv. Strongly recommended!
Kathleen Spivack
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In" East West Street", Philippe Sands, a professor of international law, tries to find out more about his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, Leon Buchholz, who was born in Lemberg, a town on the outskirts of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire . Then Sands finds out that two very prominent lawyers also grew up in the same town, on the same street, without knowing each other, during the rise of the Nazi power. Both men would live to contribute to concepts that would be fundamental to the Nuremberg Tria ...more
Chris Chapman
A fascinating new take on the Nuremberg trials. On the face of it this book is about quite a technical legal question - do "genocide" or "crimes against humanity" constitute a better framework for prosecuting crimes on a momentous scale like the Nazi holocaust? But it actually comes down to a more fundamental philosophical question - when war criminals choose their victims based on their ethnic identity, do we need to bring that into the prosecution, or does that contribute to making this a "rac ...more
Jonathan Pool
East West Street (Lviv, Poland) is at times fascinating. It's also a bit repetitive, and also ponderous when analysing the subtlety of certain legal arguments pertaining to the Nuremberg trials in 1946.
I found Phillipe Sands weaving of his own family history, and tragedies, really moving, and there's no doubting the passion that his authorship brings to a much discussed twentieth century history, once his own direct and indirect involvement emerges. Sands is a British barrister "who loves the mu
Richard Moss
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A book focused on the development of the law around war crimes might sound worthy, but East West Street is one of the most compelling and human books I have ever read.

At its heart are the lives of two Jewish lawyers - Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin - who both played significant parts in the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

Remarkably, they both were at the same university in Lviv in modern-day Poland. They also shared a tutor, but then came up with distinct ideas that fed into th
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
All our histories.

In this fastidious work of historical non-fiction, Philippe Sands examines the events leading up to the Nuremberg Trials from the perspective of four main characters. His exhaustive research is really quite remarkable.

Focusing on the town of Lemberg/Lviv/Lvov/Lwów, now part of Ukraine, Sands tells the stories of four contemporaries caught up in the fast-moving events of this central city: Hersch Lauterpacht, who became a professor of international law at Cambridge, Rafael Lemki
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Philippe Sands is Professor of Law at University College London and a practicing barrister at Matrix Chambers. He has been involved in many important cases, including Pinochet, Congo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq, Guantanamo and the Yazadis. His 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 r ...more

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“Does the difference matter? someone else asked. Does it matter whether the law seeks to protect you because you are an individual or because of the group of which you happen to be a member? That question floated around the room, and it has remained with me ever since.” 5 likes
“Why had I chosen the path of the law? And why law of the kind that seemed to be connected to an unspoken family history? 'What haunts are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others,' the psychoanalyst Nicolas Abraham wrote of the relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent. The invitation from Lviv was a chance to explore those haunting gaps.” 1 likes
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