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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Benjamin Ferencz Passes Away at Age 103

He was the final surviving Nuremberg prosecutor

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UNITED STATES: Benjamin Ferencz, the only living prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials in Germany that prosecuted Nazi war criminals after the Second World War, passed away on Friday at the age of 103. He was a longtime supporter of international criminal law and prosecuted many German officers who oversaw mobile killing squads. The assisted care home in Boynton Beach, Florida, is where he passed away.

Ferencz served as a prosecutor at Nuremberg and later advocated for the creation of an international criminal court. He also donated to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was created in Washington.

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Ferencz was appointed chief US prosecutor at Nuremberg for the prosecution of 22 officers who were in charge of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile paramilitary assassination squads. Over a million people were killed by the squads throughout the war in German-occupied Europe, mostly civilians.

Ferencz’s opening speech at the trial revealed the deliberate slaughter of more than a million innocent and defenceless people.

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Ferencz testified that the Nazi worldview was based on genocide, which is the systematic killing of entire human groups. The convicted officers planned to annihilate ethnic, national, political, and religious groups that were “condemned in the Nazi mind.” Ferencz asked the court to uphold the right of all people to live in peace and dignity.

Ferencz was 10 months old when his family emigrated to the United States from Transylvania, Romania, and grew up in “Hell’s Kitchen” in New York City. He enlisted in the American military and served in Europe before joining the newly established war crimes department of the US Army in 1943. 

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He took notes and observed scenes of human suffering, including stacks of malnourished corpses and crematoriums where thousands of victims were burned.

Ferencz worked under US General Telford Taylor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, which were held in a place where the Nazi leadership had held propaganda rallies prior to the war. 

The proceedings were divisive at the time but have since been praised as a turning point in the development of international law and the fair prosecution of war criminals. 

Ferencz stressed that the most important aspect of the case was how it taught him and others about the mindset of mass murderers.

Ferencz supported the establishment of a global criminal tribunal to compensate Holocaust victims and survivors. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted by 120 nations in 1998 and went into effect in 2002.

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