(Reuters) — The improbable tale of three music-loving lawyers linked to Ukraine - two of them Jews and one a Hitler aide known as the “Butcher of Poland” - has made it to the stage in a work premiered at the Hay Festival.
“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, became entwined.
“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 Reuters.
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 Center 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.