IJS Events

My Father the Good Nazi: Reflections on an Encounter

Publication date: Nov 25, 2013 10:27 AM

Start: Nov 27, 2013 06:00 PM


Philippe Sands, UCL


Wednesday November 27th

Philippe Sands was researching a book on the origins of international criminal law and its connection with Lemberg, where his grandfather was born in 1904.

He was introduced to Horst, the son of Lemberg’s Nazi governor, Otto von Wächter. Initially impressed by Horst’s openness, his willingness to bare his struggle with his family history, and even to share documents and photographs, Sands was increasingly surprised by his attitude to his father, an indicted Nazi leader who signed a document in March 1942 effectively transferring the Jews of Galicia to Belzec. “I must find the good in my father,” Horst said “My father was a good man, a liberal who did his best,” he said. “Others would have been worse.” More brutal, asked Sands, that condemning all the Jews to death? His examination of one man’s rationalisation of brutality is the subject of this talk.

Horst von Wächter
Horst von Wächter:
‘I know that the whole system was criminal and that [my father] was part of it, but I don’t think he was a criminal. He didn’t act like a criminal’

Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for International Courts and Tribunals at University College London, and a practising barrister and co-founder of Matrix Chambers. He is the author of Lawless World (2005) and Torture Team (2008), has written several academic books on international law, and contributes to the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, the FT and The Guardian. He is a vice president of the Hay Festival, a member of the board of the Tricycle Theatre, and a member of the advisory board of Wilton Park and of the appeal board Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. He is working on a new book, on the origins of international crime, to be published by Knopf.




Reception from 6pm, Flaxman Gallery (entrance through UCL main library, Wilkins building)

Lecture 6.45pm Pearson lecture theatre G22, Pearson Building NE entrance

Turn left as you enter UCL main gate and follow the outside of the building to the corner.


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For more events, see our Lectures Programme for Autumn 2013.

Page last modified on 25 nov 13 10:05