To launch The Kilmuir Papers website on International Human Rights Day 2013, the songs from Under an English Heaven, the score for Tom Blackmore's film of the same name were performed interspersed with readings chosen from the personal papers of David Maxwell Fyfe. The setting was St Matthew's Church, Westminster, just around the corner from North Court, where Maxwell Fyfe lived with his family, and not far from Church House, scene of the London Conference, and during the Trials, the despatch point for his wife Sylvia to send letters and parcels to reach him in Nuremberg.
The songs were sung by a specially assembled Freedom Choir of girl choristers from Southwark Cathedral Girls Choir by kind permission of Stephen Disley and Maxwell Fyfe's words read by his great grandson Robert Blackmore.
The score of Under an English Heaven was later extended and developed into Dreams of Peace & Freedom which was premiered the following August at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. English Cabaret plans a return to Westminster with Dreams of Peace & Freedom as part of their Nuremberg to Strasbourg events to mark the 70th Anniversary of The Nuremberg Trials.
THE WESTMINSTER VILLAGE
BIRTHPLACE OF THE POSTWAR BID FOR INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE
UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN
The Freedom Choir
St Matthew's Church, Westminster
In July, 1935, I was elected to the House of Commons. This meant that during the Assizes I was constantly conferring from 9 am until 10.30, in Court (with a short interval for lunch) until 5.15pm, then on the 5.25 from Liverpool or 5.45 from Manchester, reaching London at 9. Then in the House until after the 11 o’clock division, then back on the midnight train to the North, in order to begin my day again. (It was the Daily Telegraph who christened me ‘KC by day, MP by night.’)
I cannot adequately express my emotions of pride and happiness when I first entered the Palace of Westminster as of right, a Member of Parliament.
To enter the House of Commons is not merely to enter a political institution, it is coming upon a new world, complex, hazardous, inconstant, demanding and perpetually fascinating. The pride and pleasure never faded throughout the twenty years I sat in the Commons.
When it became clear that the Nazis would be defeated, the allies had to decide the plight of their leaders. The decision to hold a trial and hold them to account before the law was implemented at the London Conference in 1945. Lawyers from America, Russia and France met in Church House under the chairmanship of the British Attorney General David Maxwell Fyfe. Differences in culture and legal practice were ironed out as they drew up the charter under which the Nazis were prosecuted. Alongside charges of war crimes and aggressive war the prisoners were indicted with crimes against humanity.
Throughout the conference Maxwell Fyfe was engaged in an election to secure his role as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. He succeeded at an election when many of his Conservative colleagues failed, opening the way to a succesful political career on his return from Nuremberg.
Extracts from David Maxwell Fyfe's autobiography
'A Political Adventure'