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A monumental achievement: profoundly personal, told with love, anger and great precision (John le Carré)
Supremely gripping. Sands has produced something extraordinary. Written with novelistic skill, its prose effortlessly poised, its tone perfectly judged, his book teems with life, from the bustling streets of Habsburg Lviv to the high drama of the Nuremberg trials. One of the most gripping and powerful books imaginable (Dominic Sandbrook SUNDAY TIMES)
Important and engrossing. . . even when charting the complexities of law, Sands's writing has the intrigue, verve and material density of a first-rate thriller. . . He can magic whole histories of wartime heroism out of addresses eight decades old. Or, chasing the lead of a faded photograph, he can unearth possible alternate grandparents and illicit liaisons to be verified only by DNA tests. . . an exceptional memoir (Lisa Appignanesi OBSERVER)
Engrossing ... Sands has written a remarkable and enjoyable book, deftly weaving his own family history into a lively account of the travails of the early campaigners for international human rights law (Caroline Moorhead LITERARY REVIEW)
A magnificent book. A work of great brilliance. There is narrative sweep and intellectual grip. Everything that happens is inevitable and yet comes as a surprise. I was moved to anger and to pity. In places I gasped, in places I wept. I wanted to reach the end. I couldn't wait to reach the end. And then when I got there I didn't want to be at the end (Daniel Finkelstein THE TIMES)
A fascinating and revealing book, for the things it explains: the origins of laws that changed our world, no less. It's also a readable book, and thoughtful, and compassionate. Most fundamentally, though, it's a book that tells a few individual human stories that lie behind the world-changing ones. That storytelling isn't redemptive - what could be, in this context? - but it confronts all those silences and challenges them. That challenge makes it an important book too (Daniel Hahn THE SPECTATOR)
A vivid and readable contribution, part memoir, part documentary, to the history debate ... Much of the most compelling material in this book is personal ... Moving and powerful (Mark Mazower FINANCIAL TIMES)
Outstanding ... This is the best kind of intellectual history. Sands puts the ideas of Lemkin and Lauterpacht in context and shows how they still resonate today, influencing Tony Blair, David Cameron and Barack Obama. When we think of the atrocities committed by Slobodan Milosevic or Bashar al-Assad, it is the ideas of these two Jewish refugees we turn to. Sands shows us in a clear, astonishing story where they came from (David Herman NEW STATESMAN)
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)
A book like no other I have ever read - unputdownable and unforgettable (Orlando Figes)
'A monumental achievement: profoundly personal, told with love, anger and great precision' - John le Carré
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.
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