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Rule of Law – Winton Higgins in conversation

  • Unity Books 57 Willis Street Wellington New Zealand (map)

Unity Books, Brandl & Schlesinger and One Mindful Breath warmly invite you to a lunchtime author event with Winton Higgins, author of Rule of Law. 

Winton will be in conversation about his new novel, Rule of Law, with Sir Anand Satyanand, a former lawyer, judge and ombudsman who was the 19th Governor-General of New Zealand and the current Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation.


About Rule of Law

In his new novel, Rule of Law, Winton Higgins creatively accounts for the drama of the first Nuremberg trial over a 16 month period in 1945 and 1946, where the atrocities of the Third Reich were uncovered for a worldwide audience for the first time. Concepts we take for granted now – crimes against humanity, a world court, an international criminal justice system – were bom and nurtured in Nuremberg. Winton has used the medium of a novel to bring this history to life. It is very much a story for our time and Winton has wisely chosen the novel form to tell his story, rather than write an academic history.

In the midst of World War II, the Allies promised to punish prominent German perpetrators of atrocities at war’s end. When the war was at last ending, the Allies had to agree on how to honour this promise. Summary executions by firing squad beckoned as the expedient way to do this. But the US war secretary, Henry Stimson, dissented: he agitated for a public trial before an international tribunal, one following due process and conducted in four languages. He wanted this trial to found an international rule of law that would represent a giant leap forward by outlawing aggressive war and crimes against humanity.

One participant is a top Nazi top propagandist fighting for his life on the stand. The other three – a Jewish German-American prosecution interpreter, a British judge, and a German woman (one of the tribunal’s pioneering simultaneous interpreters) – play active roles in the trial and come to identify with its breathtaking ambition to set a judicial precedent that will deprive perpetrators everywhere of their impunity, in aid of a new world where human rights hold sway.

Katerina, the simultaneous interpreter, is newly married to an Australian member of the British prosecution, but is also struggling to restore the decency and honour of her own nation after its profound corruption during the Nazi era. All four work in the daily glare of global press and radio attention. Their encounter discloses the trial’s long-term legacy in the development of an international rule of law.

Stimson had prevailed. His victory unleashed an unprecedented human drama in the bomb-ravaged city of Nuremberg – a drama played out in the glare of international publicity, one involving thousands of participants, many of whom were as war-damaged as the city in which they had to play their parts. The novel follows four of these participants as they face the challenges of the pioneering trial, the daily struggles of life in a shattered city haunted by its immediate Nazi past, and the urgent demands of their private lives. 

‘A fascinating novel that captures the drama of history’s most important trial, which laid the foundation for international criminal law. This gripping account uses fiction to bring to life the personalities, principles and philosophies that contributed to the delivery of justice at Nuremberg.’ 
– Geoffrey Robertson QC

‘This is a gripping story of one of the great moments in history. When the victorious Allies of the Second World War decided to put the tyrants of the Nazi regime on public trial for crimes against humanity, the symbolism was electric. The drama was overwhelming. The emotions wretched. And it had to be worked out in conditions of bombed out devastation and with no effective precedents. Across the pages walk historical characters, some of them familiar. But interwoven with their lives are human tales of great power, added by the author to remind us that this was a raw human drama. Once started, I could not put this book down.’ 
– Hon Michael Kirby, past justice of the High Court of Australia and chair of the UN commission of inquiry on North Korea


About Winton Higgins

Secular Buddhist teacher Winton Higgins was born in Sydney in November 1941. After surviving the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour of 31 May 1942, he grew up on a sheep and cattle station in central Australia, 55km outside Walgett, NSW, in Tennant Creek, and back in Sydney. He graduated in arts and law from Sydney University and practised at the Bar for three years until 1969 when he moved to Europe, where he gained postgraduate qualifications in social science at the universities of Stockholm and London (LSE).

He did research and taught in Adelaide 1972–5, before his appointment as a lecturer in politics at Macquarie University, Sydney. He left this institution in 2000 as an associate professor. Since then he has been an associate in international studies at the University of Technology Sydney, while also engaging in creative writing. Winton won the NSW Writers’ Centre’s short short story competition in 2002.

Winton has cultivated a wide range of interests in his intellectual life, and three of them have come to dominate: social-democratic theory and practice, especially under the aegis of the Swedish experience 1928–76; genocide studies, with special reference to the Holocaust; and standardisation. He has been a board member of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies since its inception in 2000. Winton also teaches an annual course at the Aquinas Academy on various ethical, social and political topics.

Since 1987, Winton has been a Buddhist practitioner, and a teacher of insight meditation since 1995. He has contributed to the development of a secular Buddhism internationally and is a senior teacher for Sydney Insight Meditators and Secular Buddhism in Aotearoa New Zealand

Winton’s meditation teaching has developed towards non-formulaic insight practice based on the Buddha’s original teachings, while his dharmic orientation inclines towards a secular Buddhism. He fosters interest in the original teachings and their affinity with modern streams of thought and progressive social commitments. He and his partner Lena live in Sydney and have 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. His personal website is at, and much of his dharma writing can be found at

Earlier Event: April 19
Kindness, decency & wisdom