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.” Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht, each of whom have come to be considered the finest legal minds of the twentieth century and founders of the modern human rights movement, forged diametrically opposite, revolutionary concepts of humanitarian law that have profoundly changed the world. Both, unknown to the other, studied in the same university with the same professors, in a city that was a major cultural center of Europe, “the little Paris of Ukraine,” variously called Lemberg, Lwov, Lvov, or Lviv.
The author writes of a third man, Hans Frank, Hitler’s personal lawyer, who, as governor-general of Nazi-occupied Poland, ordered the death of more than a million Jews and Poles, among them the familes of Lemkin and Lauterpacht, as well as the author. Sands pieces together how all three lives converged in October 1946, in courtroom 600 of the Palace of Justice at the International Military Tribunals at Nuremberg.
Sands, himself a distinguished human rights lawyer, also tells the moving story of his own grandfather, a Galician Jew who had been born a century before in Lviv, and whose life, irrevocably altered by the Holocaust, had been shrouded in secrecy.