"The Great Crimes" tells how the lives of Hersch Lauterpecht,
who formulated the legal concept of crimes against humanity,
Raphael Lemkin, who helped make genocide an international crime,
and Hans Frank, World War Two governor of Nazi-occupied Poland,
"It is about the origins of our modern systems of justice and
the role that an individual can play," Philippe Sands, professor
of international law at University College, London, told
Sands, baritone Laurent Naouri and pianist Guillaume de Chassy
gave "The Great Crimes" its first public hearing at the Hay
festival on May 25. Sands narrates the story, interspersed with
music from Naouri and de Chassy.
It will performed at London's Southbank Centre in November.
Sands uncovered the story on which the work is based while
researching the early life of his grandfather, who was born in
the city now known as Lviv in Ukraine but called Lemberg under
the Austro-Hungarian Empire and by its wartime German occupiers.
Lauterpecht and Lemkin studied law at the Jan Kazimierz
University in what was then Lemberg and both were Jews who lost
most of their family members in the Holocaust.
They both left the city, Lauterpecht becoming an academic lawyer
at Britain's Cambridge University and Lemkin taking teaching
posts at several leading United States universities.
Frank, who was Hitler's personal lawyer, made a notorious
anti-Semitic speech in Lemberg, which Sands says opened the way
for the killings of thousands of Jews. In another speech in
Berlin in 1941, Frank called for the Jews to be “finished off”.
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He was arrested in 1945 and stood trial with other major Nazi war
criminal in Nuremberg. As part of the British prosecution team,
Lauterpecht was responsible for the inclusion in the Nuremberg
Charter, on which the trial was based, of the concept of crimes
Lemkin was not in Nuremberg but as an adviser to Robert Jackson, the
chief U.S. prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal, he had
unsuccessfully pressed for genocide, a term he coined, to be
included in the Charter.
Both Lauterpecht and Frank, Sands said, found solace in Johann
Sebastian Bach's "St. Matthew Passion", which is one of several
works featured in "The Great Crimes".
"Frank was an incredibly cultured man. How can a man who appears to
be so cultured and know about the rule of law immerse himself in
such terror and horror?" asked Sands, who has fought cases as a
barrister before the International Court of Justice.
Frank also befriended the composer Richard Strauss, who, Sands said,
wrote a piece in Frank's honor in 1943. The score is lost but "The
Great Crimes" includes music written in the style of Strauss by
French composer Frederic Chaslin.
Frank was hanged in late 1946. The United Nations adopted the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
on Dec. 9, 1948.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Tom Heneghan)
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