English Heritage has unveiled its latest blue plaque, to the Cricklewood dwelling lawyer Sir Hersch Lauterpacht.
Lauterpacht (1897-1960) was a leading lawyer in the first half of the 20th century, whose most notable contributions came during the Nuremberg trials, which prosecuted Nazis for war crimes. Indeed, the terms "war crime" and "crimes against humanity" were popularised by Lauterpacht.
According to English Heritage, "He ensured that the so-called Nuremberg defence – “I was only following orders” – would not wash. Lauterpacht’s part in ensuring that justice (as distinct from revenge) was served on that occasion was remarkable enough, but the Nuremberg tribunal’s adoption of his line – that war crimes were “committed by men, not abstract entities”– had enormous implications for the conduct of international relations since."
A timely commemoration, then, given how recklessly the limits of international law are currently under test.
Ukraine-born Lauterpacht made London his home in his 20s, while working for a PhD in international law at the London School of Economics. His blue plaque can be seen at 103 Walm Lane in Cricklewood, the family home for 10 years.
Images courtesy of English Heritage.