Ben Ferencz, last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, dies at 103

Ben Ferencz, last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, dies at 103
Опубликовано: Tuesday, 11 April 2023 10:04

Benjamin Ferencz (pictured) was the last surviving prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials in Germany. He brought Nazi war criminals to justice following World War Two. He also served as an apostle of international criminal law.

Ferencz was a Harvard-educated attorney who secured convictions for many German officers who led roving execution squads during World War II. The circumstances surrounding his death are not yet known. According to the New York Times, Ferencz was found dead at Boynton Beach assisted living facility.

At just 27 years of age, he was appointed as a prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947. There, Nazi defendants such as Hermann Goring were tried for crimes against humanity.

Ferencz advocated for decades the creation of an International Criminal Court. This goal was achieved with the establishment in The Hague, Netherlands, of an International Tribunal. Ferencz was also a major donor to the U.S. Washington was the first home of the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"Today, the world lost an important leader in the pursuit of justice for genocide victims and other crimes. We are saddened by the passing of Ben Ferencz, the last Nuremberg war crime prosecutor. He was 27 years old and had no previous trial experience. "The U.S. Holocaust Museum posted the following tweet.

Ferencz was appointed chief prosecutor of the United States for the Nuremberg trial of 22 paramilitary killing squads, known as Einsatzgruppen, that were part the notorious Nazi SS. These squads were responsible for over a million deaths and carried out mass killings of Jews, Gypsies and other civilians during World War II.

Ferencz stated in his opening statement that he had revealed the deliberate killing of more than one million innocent and defenseless children, men, and women.

"This was the tragic end of a program that promoted intolerance, arrogance and intolerance. We are not seeking justice or revenge. This court is asked to confirm by international penal action the right of man to live in peace, dignity and independence from race and creed. Ferencz said that the case is a plea for humanity to law.


Ferencz stated to the court that the accused officers had executed long-range plans for the extermination of ethnic, national and religious groups.

Ferencz stated that Genocide, which is the extermination or destruction of whole groups of human beings, was the most prominent instrument of Nazi doctrine.

All of the defendants were convicted, and 13 received death sentences. Ferencz was the first to be tried in this case.

Ferencz was born March 11, 1920 in Transylvania (Romania). He was only 10 months old at the time his family immigrated to the United States. Ferencz grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1943 and fought in Europe. Then he joined the U.S. Army’s newly created war crimes section.

After liberating Nazi death camps like Buchenwald by the Allies, he seized records and documents. He then surveyed scenes of human misery, including piles of emaciated bodies and crematoria that incinerated untold number of bodies.

Ferencz was recruited by the U.S. to assist in the prosecution of war crimes in Nuremberg. This is a city in which the Nazi leadership held elaborate propaganda rallies prior to the war. Ferencz served under US General Telford Taylor. Although the trials were controversial at the moment, they ended up being celebrated as a landmark in the establishment of international law and the holding war criminals responsible in fair trials.

Ferencz stated that "it gave us and it gave my insight into the mentality mass murderers," in an interview with American Bar Association in 2018.

"They had killed over a million people, including hundreds and thousands of children in coldblood. I wanted to know how educated people — many had PhDs or were generals in Germany’s Army — could tolerate and lead such horrific crimes."

Ferencz was instrumental in securing compensation for Holocaust survivors and victims after the Nuremberg trials. Ferencz advocated later for the establishment of an international criminal court. The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 by 120 countries that adopted a Rome statute in 1998.

He was 91 years old when he participated in the first case before a court, giving a closing statement to the prosecution of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (an accused Congolese warlord). He was later convicted of war crime.

Ferencz has been critical of his country’s actions over the years, including during the Vietnam War. He wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in January 2020 calling the U.S. killing a senior Iranian military commander in a drone strike "immoral" and "a clear violation national and international law."

He stated that he has continued to dedicate most of my life to preventing the war because he is aware that the next one will make the previous one seem like child’s play. This he said to the bar association in 2018: "’Law, not War’ is my motto and my hope."

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