The Nuremberg Trials afforded the victorious Western powers the chance to prosecute a new type of crime. How did this happen? A new book by Philippe Sands of University College London how Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin contributed to this legal innovation.
“A nation was killed,” Lemkin wrote, “and the guilty persons set free.” Later, after reading Mein Kampf, he presciently declared it a “blue-print for destruction.” He went on to practice law in Poland before being forced to flee Europe, and ended up in North Carolina and the sanctuary of Duke University. In 1944 he published a book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. The title may have been lackluster but he made up for it with the word he coined for the title of chapter nine, a word that would henceforth enter the legal lexicon as a means of classifying and judging the worst possible crime, the “crime of crimes”—“Genocide.”