East West Street

Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, 2016

Buy Now:

Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781409163244

Price: £19.99

ON SALE: 26th May 2016

Genre: Nonfiction / Law / Jurisprudence & General Issues / Law & Society

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.


‘A monumental achievement: profoundly personal, told with love, anger and great precision’ – John le Carré

‘A triumph of astonishing research … No novel could possibly match such an important work of truth’ – Antony Beevor

‘Magnificent … I was moved to anger and to pity. In places I gasped, in places I wept. I wanted to reach the end. I couldn’t wait to reach the end. And then when I got there I didn’t want to be at the end’ – The Times
When human rights lawyer Philippe Sands received an invitation to deliver a lecture in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, he began to uncover a series of extraordinary historical coincidences. It set him on a quest that would take him halfway around the world in an exploration of the origins of international law and the pursuit of his own secret family history, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg Trials.

Part historical detective story, part family history, part legal thriller, Philippe Sands guides us between past and present as several interconnected stories unfold in parallel. The first is the hidden story of two Nuremberg prosecutors who discover, only at the end of the trials, that the man they are prosecuting may be responsible for the murder of their entire families in Nazi-occupied Poland, in and around Lviv. The two prosecutors, Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, were remarkable men, whose efforts led to the inclusion of the terms ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’ in the judgement at Nuremberg. The defendant, Hans Frank, Hitler’s personal lawyer and Governor-General of Nazi-occupied Poland, turns out to be an equally compelling character.

The lives of these three men lead Sands to a more personal story, as he traces the events that overwhelmed his mother’s family in Lviv and Vienna during the Second World War. At the heart of this book is an equally personal quest to understand the roots of international law and the concepts that have dominated Sands’ work as a lawyer. Eventually, he finds unexpected answers to his questions about his family, in this powerful meditation on the way memory, crime and guilt leave scars across generations, and the haunting gaps left by the secrets of others.

Read by Philippe Sands and David Rintoul

(p) 2016 Orion Publishing Group


EAST WEST STREET pulls off the considerable feat of interweaving the lives of these three men with a brief history of international law and its origins, and some profoundly moving revelations about Sands' own forebears ... [It] is also an eminently topical book because it directly considers the impact of the past on our present
Caroline Sanderson, THE BOOKSELLER
In a triumph of astonishing research, Sands has brilliantly woven together several family stories which lead to the great denouement at the Nuremberg tribunal. No novel could possibly match such an important work of truth
Antony Beevor
An engrossing tale of family secrets and groundbreaking legal precedents ... a tense, riveting melding of memoir and history ... From letters, photographs, and deeply revealing interviews, the author portrays Nazi persecutions in shattering detail ... For the future of humanity, forgetting, Sands insists in this vastly important book, is not an option
KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review
EAST WEST STREET is a strange and beautiful object: at once a genealogy of international human rights law, and a delicate family portrait. The common element to this apparently unrelated pair is genocidal persecution - and other assorted horrors of twentieth century history. It is meticulous, moving and compulsive
Adam Thirlwell
A book like no other I have ever read - unputdownable and unforgettable
Orlando Figes
Astonishing and important
Louis Begley
This remarkable book is partly a lawyer's quest to understand the roots of international law (one that is surprisingly fascinating for the non-legal reader) and a riveting family memoir
THE BOOKSELLER, Book of the Month
Gripping ... This fascinating account of forgetting, forgiving and moving on ... achieves a balance between the individual and the political that brings the events of the Holocaust into new focus. ... [A] compelling work with unforgettable characters
This book transcends genre, breaking convention to create something fascinating and engrossing. Sands manages to weave the most personal of stories through the most globally impactful: the inclusion of the term "crimes against humanity" in the judgement at Nuremberg.
Steven Cooper of Waterstones, THE BOOKSELLER
There is growing suspicion that there are no stories left to tell of the Holocaust; all the pain and horror has been revealed to the point of repetition. But human-rights lawyer Sands proves that there is still room for thoughtful writers to educate, engage and even beguile readers on this terribly important subject ... An unexpected page-turner, EAST WEST STREET is a book for the twenty-first century that reminds us that the cruel lessons of the twentieth still have much to impart and must not be ignored
Colleen Mondor, BOOKLIST
A beautiful and necessary book
A.L. Kennedy
In EAST WEST STREET, Philippe Sands brings all the power of his formidable intellect, his inquisitive spirit and his emotional imagination to bear on a complicated tangle of personal, legal and European history. In a gripping narrative that is tender yet dispassionate, intensely felt and meticulously researched. Sands uncovers the surprising affinities and divergences among the parallel lives of three men, two celebrated, one unknown, whose struggles, sorrows, accomplishments and defeats, large and small, help us to understand and, more, to feel the mittel-European civilization their lives embodied, a whole world that was destroyed and reinvented within the span of a single lifetime
Michael Chabon
Engrossing ... Sands has written a remarkable and enjoyable book, deftly weaving his own family history into a lively account of the travails of the early campaigners for international human rights law
Caroline Moorhead, LITERARY REVIEW
A fascinating and revealing book, for the things it explains: the origins of laws that changed our world, no less. It's also a readable book, and thoughtful, and compassionate. Most fundamentally, though, it's a book that tells a few individual human stories that lie behind the world-changing ones. That storytelling isn't redemptive - what could be, in this context? - but it confronts all those silences and challenges them. That challenge makes it an important book too
Outstanding ... This is the best kind of intellectual history. Sands puts the ideas of Lemkin and Lauterpacht in context and shows how they still resonate today, influencing Tony Blair, David Cameron and Barack Obama. When we think of the atrocities committed by Slobodan Milosevic or Bashar al-Assad, it is the ideas of these two Jewish refugees we turn to. Sands shows us in a clear, astonishing story where they came from
Important and engrossing. . . even when charting the complexities of law, Sands's writing has the intrigue, verve and material density of a first-rate thriller. . . He can magic whole histories of wartime heroism out of addresses eight decades old. Or, chasing the lead of a faded photograph, he can unearth possible alternate grandparents and illicit liaisons to be verified only by DNA tests. . . an exceptional memoir
Lisa Appignanesi, OBSERVER
A vivid and readable contribution, part memoir, part documentary, to the history debate ... Much of the most compelling material in this book is personal ... Moving and powerful
A narrative to my knowledge unprecedented. . . a machine of power and beauty that should not be ignored by anyone in the United States or elsewhere who would believe there are irreparable crimes whose adjudication should not stop at the border
Reads more like a thriller or a spy story: not many barristers have their books endorsed by John le Carre
Joshua Rozenberg, PROSPECT
Gripping, profound and deeply personal ... EAST WEST STREET is especially interesting and readable as much of it is a detective story of Sands' investigation into his family history ... The unravelling of these secrets, and the remarkable way that Sands' family history interweaves with those of Lemkin and Lauterpacht, make for gripping reading
EAST WEST STREET is a landmark moment. From the ashes of the holocaust, the graveyards of Bosnia, and other places of mass killing, Sands gives a brilliant and uplifting insight into the birth of the crimes of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity" and the roles they played in bringing the agents of such slaughter to justice
Jon Snow
Beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg Trials, several powerful, interconnecting stories unfold in parallel
Shattering, important and incredibly readable
John Lewis-Stempel, SUNDAY EXPRESS
A magnificent book. A work of great brilliance. There is narrative sweep and intellectual grip. Everything that happens is inevitable and yet comes as a surprise. I was moved to anger and to pity. In places I gasped, in places I wept. I wanted to reach the end. I couldn't wait to reach the end. And then when I got there I didn't want to be at the end
Daniel Finkelstein, THE TIMES
Supremely gripping. Sands has produced something extraordinary. Written with novelistic skill, its prose effortlessly poised, its tone perfectly judged, his book teems with life, from the bustling streets of Habsburg Lviv to the high drama of the Nuremberg trials. One of the most gripping and powerful books imaginable
Dominic Sandbrook, SUNDAY TIMES
Philippe Sands' remarkable book is a voyage of discovery into the lost world of Lemberg/Lwow, its people, and their actions and ideas as these ripple out into the larger world we still inhabit.
If you think you have read enough on this subject, or know enough, then think again. In EAST WEST STREET, Philippe Sands has produced a masterpiece that is part detective story and part exploration of family history, memory, crime, guilt, loss and law...It is a work of the highest order and it deserves to be as widely read as possible. It is, I reiterate, a masterpiece
Iain Martin, REACTION
Dazzling, shattering. EAST WEST STREET is one of the most extraordinary books that I have ever read
Antonia Fraser
Philippe Sands, a professor of law and a practising barrister, brings his experience of a wide variety of cases of serious human rights abuses, from Rwanda to Yugoslavia, Guantanamo to Congo-Brazzaville, to an excavation of the origins of the concepts of 'crimes against humanity' and 'genocide'.
Richard J Evans, THE GUARDIAN
Gripping and beautifully written
The best thing I've read this year, East West Street is both personal and international in scope.
In his quest to find out more about the early life of his late grandfather Philippe Sands gives us a powerful insight into the lives of two great jurists who defined crimes against humanity and genocide
The coincidences that lie at the heart of the story that Philippe Sands, QC, will recount in Edinburgh this weekend are so breathtaking that audiences will find them hard to believe. At least as remarkable, however, is the detective work that he has used to pull them together.
Magnus Linklater, THE TIMES
He alights on a pit containing the remains of 3.500 Jews, "individuals each, together a group". And in a moment of insight and epiphany he understands. And so, in the end do we: that is the achievement of this learned, idiosyncratic, carefully crafted, grippingly readable book.
Sands...shows himself to be superbly in control of his materials...fascinating and moving
More gripping than any thriller
Gabriel Josipovici, TLS
Philippe Sands has not only woven together striking and important stories, leading from the city of Lviv to the Nuremberg tribunal, he has achieved an almost unbelievable miracle in his research.
Antony Beevor, THE GUARDIAN Christmas Books
Beautifully written and enormously moving, Sands's meditation on the Holocaust in the formerly Polish city of Lviv was a well-deserved winner of the Baillie Gifford prize.
Dominic Sandbrook, SUNDAY TIMES Christmas Books
Intellectual thriller, family story, legal history, political tour-de-force, East West Street, winner of the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction, is all of these things...It makes a compelling case for international law and the rights of the individual as it sweeps you along with its astonishing narrative.
Daniel Finkelstein, THE TIMES Books of the Year
The winner of this year's Baillie Gifford Prize, Sands' book is a mixture of intellectual history, family memoir and a re-creation of the events leading up to the Nuremberg trails.
FINANCIAL TIMES Books of the Year
An extraordinary work of research and evocative empathy, in which consciousness of present effects is never allowed to trump the complexities of the past.
David Horspool, THE GUARDIAN Books of the Year
A profound and very personal account of the origins of genocide in Nazi Germany, intertwined with the history of [Sands'] own family during that time, and much more compelling than I've made it sound
Anthony Horowitz, BURTON MAIL
The most moving book I've read this year...The book is more than a brilliant lawyer's description of two legal concepts that have been fundamental to the moral history of humanity since the Second World War. It is also a story of self-discovery that plunges us into one of the darkest episodes in human history, the Holocaust. Am I wrong to imagine I can hear some of those long-buried skeletons rattling in their graves again?
Richard Holloway, SUNDAY HERALD
An un-put-downable winner of the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction
THE ECONOMIST Books of the Year
An exacting, heroic, essential education
In his remarkable book, part history, part memoir, Sands painstakingly sifts the evidence to discover the tragedy and secret history of his own family, interweaving his story with those of Lauterpacht and Lemkin, and their efforts to ensure justice for the countless victims of Nazi crimes against humanity.
Jane Shilling, DAILY MAIL
Winner of the Baillie Gifford (formerly Samuel Johnson) prize, East West Street tells teh extraordinary story of the two Nuremberg prosecutors who gave legal definition to the terms "genocide" and "crimes against humanity".
East West Street...is a book unlike any other, a work impossible to categorise. The work has recently won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, but to label it as such could be limiting: Sands presents no usual work of non-fiction. Combining memoir, biography, work of history and study of international law, it could most aptly be described as a "biography of a generation" (as Mark Mazower argues) or of generations
This is not conventional history-telling. In terms of time, the narrative moves back and forth, between the various people and places and between the public and the private. Much of it is told as if Sands is sitting in the room talking to you and taking you through his researches. The Holocaust itself comes into it in brief but powerful passages.
David Wurtzel, COUNSEL
Like a detective, Sands ties these four characters together, drawing in the strands until the evil Frank, his protestations of innocence rejected, dangles from the end of a rope.
A masterpiece
Philippe Sands has the gift of storytelling...East West Street rightly won the Baillie Gifford Prize for nonfiction
It's a beautifully written story about legal theory (crimes against humanity and genocide in the Nazi era), the city of Lviv in western Ukraine and an intimate family history.
A complex but beautifully woven story, EAST WEST STREET follows the plight of Sands' Jewish family in what was a town near Lemberg (now Lviv) in Ukraine. This moving personal story is interwoven with the lives and work of two lawyers from that troubled city (one of whom coined the phrase 'genocide') during the 1945-46 Nuremberg trials
James Holland, BBC HISTORY
In an age in which truth has become more elusive than ever, this is a brave, passionate book that makes its readers witnesses of a search for it...One of the best examples of analytical thinking and research combined with fine storytelling
A monumental achievement: profoundly personal, told with love, anger and great precision
John le Carré