Holocaust Awareness Week concludes with ‘powerful, deeply moving’ Morton Lecture

On Thursday night at North­eastern, inter­na­tional lawyer Philippe Sands deliv­ered a pow­erful lec­ture exam­ining the cre­ation and devel­op­ment of two sig­nif­i­cant legal concepts—“genocide” and “crimes against humanity”—that came about to define the atroc­i­ties com­mitted by the Nazis.

Sands, pro­fessor of law and director of the Centre on Inter­na­tional Courts and Tri­bunals at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege London, dis­cussed his latest book, East West Street: On the Ori­gins of “Geno­cide” and “Crimes Against Humanity”—the winner of the 2016 Baillie Gif­ford Prize for Non­fic­tion. Sands was the keynote speaker at Northeastern’s 25th Annual Robert Salomon Morton Lec­ture, which was held in Raytheon Amphithe­ater and served as the cul­mi­na­tion of the university’s annual Holo­caust Aware­ness Week.

The book recounts the life and work of two Jewish men—Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht—who simul­ta­ne­ously con­ceived these terms as legal con­cepts. In what Sands called a “striking coin­ci­dence,” Lemkin and Lauter­pacht did not know each other but studied at the same uni­ver­sity and walked the same streets in Lem­berg, Ukraine, and even had the same teacher. “Yet somehow,” he said, “they devel­oped very dif­ferent ideas for how law would pro­tect against atrocity.”

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