The Difficulties of Writing Family History
A lecture series organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London.
This season’s topic intends to discuss the challenges which arise when writing a European-Jewish family history set in the historically and politically charged period of the late 19th to the mid-20th century. What scholarly problems does a writer encounter, what emotional difficulties does an author face – especially in terms of allowing the public access to one’s own personal history, and how can these challenges be dealt with?
In conversation: Philippe Sands and Katrin Himmler
Prof. Philippe Sands, QC (UCL) – East West Street: A Personal History of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
In his short lecture and subsequent conversation with Katrin Himmler, Philippe Sands explores how personal lives and history are interwoven. Drawing from his prize-winning book East West Street – part historical detective story, part family history, part legal thriller – he connect his work on ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’, the events that overwhelmed his family during the Second World War, and an untold story at the heart of the Nuremberg Trial that pits lawyers Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht against Hans Frank, defendant number 7 and Adolf Hitler’s former lawyer.
Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Law at University College London and a barrister and arbitrator at Matrix Chambers. He is the author of several academic books on international law, and contributes to the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, the Financial Times and The Guardian. His multiple prize winning latest book East West Street: On the Origins of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide is accompanied by a BBC Storyville film, My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did
Katrin Himmler (Author) – Writing about the Himmler Family – Challenges and Chances
Katrin Himmler’s short lecture and subsequent conversation with Philippe Sands examines the difficulties of combining scientific interests with personal concerns when writing about her own Nazi family, while also looking at the advantages of such a challenging task. In creating a connection between official history and familial narratives about the past – two entities which to this day have remained largely disconnected – her undertaking aims to lead to a deeper understanding of social, historical and familial backgrounds, in the hope that a public discussion of this specific German family may encourage others to see their own families in a new context.
Katrin Himmler is a German author and political scientist. Her great-uncle was Heinrich Himmler, head of Hitler’s SS. She has confronted her family legacy with the book The Himmler Brothers. A German Family History (2007/orig. 2005). She has also edited, together with the historian Dr Michael Wildt, Letters of a Mass Murderer. The Private Heinrich Himmler (2016/orig. 2014).
Welcome by Dr Felix Römer (GHIL):
Introduction by Dr Daniel Wildmann (Director, LBI):
Audience questions and comments: