Return to Lemberg: a summation book that comes out at the right time

The author of the original work is a jurist: international lawyer, professor of law at University College London, he has pleaded on the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Guantánamo and Iraq at the International Criminal Court from The Hague, and it shows.

The work is written in the first person and it is a quadruple investigation: family first, because Philip Sands follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Léon, who lived part of his childhood in Lemberg, in Galicia (today Lviv in Ukraine) before going to England and miraculously escaping the Shoah, which This is not the case for almost the entirety – some 80 members! – of his family. A meticulous investigation based on very few elements and testimonies of a past that everyone wants to forget.

Today we can see Lviv on a map. It is a Ukrainian town near the Polish border regularly bombarded by the Russian army at the moment. It is the capital of Eastern Galicia, a territory successively Polish, then Austrian under the name of Lemberg, which became Lwów again during the Second Republic of Poland (1919-1939), annexed by the USSR on the occasion of the German Pact -Soviet, then by Germany after Operation Barbarossa and integrated into the General Government of the Reichsleiter Hans Frankit was then integrated again into the USSR, before the independence of Ukraine where it is today the capital of the Lviv oblast.

On his way to Lviv-Lemberg, our lawyer came across the existence of two figures of international law almost unknown to Ukrainians: Hersch Lauterpachtthe creator of the legal concept of “crime against humanity” and its counterpart Raphaël Lemkin, inventor of the legal concept of “genocide”, two very overused terms in recent times… These two concepts were used for the first time at the Nuremberg Tribunal which judged Nazi criminals in 1945. However, it happens that – coincidence – these two jurists are Jewish and come from the same town: Lemberg, like his grandfather! Did they know each other? This is a question that Philippe Sands asks himself.


Along the way, Philippe Sands discovers the role of another jurist: Hans Frank, the famous governor general of occupied Poland, Hitler’s lawyer, legal theorist and legal architect of the “final solution”, that is- that is to say the almost industrial destruction of the Jews of Europe. He is one of the accused at the Nuremberg Tribunal. His sentence will be hanging.

From 1933 to 1945, he retraces their respective journeys, explains how these legal concepts were formed, even opposed each other and how they were applied, essentially in the context of Nazi crime.

Don’t take this comic as a law lesson: it’s a breathtaking, methodical investigation, very well written (and masterfully transposed by Jean-Christophe Camus), clinically designed by Christophe Picaud who reprocesses photographic and archive documents with great emotion. It is an Anglo-Saxon investigation: factual, precise, methodical, where numerous witnesses intervene in all their humanity. A 304-page comic book which is not a thought: it is fascinating from start to finish.


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