“Human beings reach a crossroad”: Inspirational Oration from Prof. Philippe Sands QC

With keynote speaker Professor Philippe Sands QC, our recent 2021 Betty & Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration continued our investigation into post-Holocaust judgement and justice.

Following Museum Director and CEO Jayne Josem’s reflective opening, Dr Lois Peeler AM delivered a Welcome to Country drawing on Indigenous leader William Cooper’s activism on behalf of persecuted Jews following the November pogroms (also known as Kristallnacht). Following this, Terri Lazarus, granddaughter of Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz, introduced Prof. Philippe Sands QC with a touching note on her renewed gratitude for survivor memory. Philippe Sands QC then delivered his inspirational oration, followed by closing words from MHM Co-President Pauline Rockman OAM. 

In his captivating address, Philippe Sands QC weaved together accounts of travel, friendship and personal reflection with his identity, legal work, and writing. Sands contemplated both personal responsibility and the rule of law in the context of protecting of human rights. He shared with the audience, “Human beings reach a crossroad: they can do the right thing, they can do the wrong thing, or they can do nothing. One really admires those who reach such crossroad and do the right thing even if it comes at a very great price.” 

Oration speakers; CEO and Museum Director Jayne Josem (top left); Dr Lois Peeler AM (top right); Terri Lazarus (bottom left); Co-President Pauline Rockman OAM (bottom right)

A number of Holocaust survivors attended the event and found it “wonderful” and “brilliant, very succinct,” and were moved by Sand’s articulate message and optimistic conclusions. A survey following the event included feedback from other attendees on the “clear thinking” Oration and praised the MHM for continuing to gather “fine minds in one place” and “advancing its footprint as a global Holocaust institution.” 

The annual Betty & Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration connects Melbourne audiences with international thought leaders to gain deeper Holocaust knowledge and awareness within a global context. Previous keynote speakers include Dr Stephen D. Smith, Professor Michael Berenbaum, Paul Salmons and Emeritus Professor Dr Konrad Kwiet. 

Terri Lazarus reflected that the virtual Oration, held for the second time online, contributed to a “new technological frontier for memorial, education and connection” – a silver lining within a myriad of COVID challenges.  

The event streamed on Tuesday 9 November 2021, and is now available to watch on demand. 


Prof. Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Law at University College London and a practising barrister at Matrix Chambers. He is also an award-winning author of The Ratline (2020), East West Street (2016) Torture Team (2008) and Lawless World (2005), and contributor to the New York Review of BooksVanity Fairthe Financial Times and The Guardian. Local bookseller Readings offers a selection of his extensive, award-winning writing, including his latest release The Ratline (2020) which draws on a remarkable archive of family letters and diaries to unveil a insight into life before, during and after the war.