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Benjamin Ferenc Obituary | International Criminal Court

In 2011, at the age of 92, the diminutive but indomitable Benjamin Ferenc delivered his indictment closing speech at his first trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The veteran lawyer who prosecuted Nazi mass murderers at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal more than 60 years ago donned a black robe and a white starch collar to pay tribute to “a historic moment in the evolution of international criminal law.” .

assignment FerencDied at the age of 103.

The last surviving Nuremberg public prosecutor, he devoted his life to campaigning for the establishment of the ICC, a permanent court to try the world’s most serious crimes, and for legislation establishing the crime of aggression. , was successful. Guided by his motto, “Law is not war,” Ferenc gave a television interview last year as well, claiming that those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine must be brought to justice.

Benjamin Ferenc in Leiden, Netherlands, 2014. His motto was “law not war”. Photo: Action Press/Shutterstock

His fame rests on two criminal trials before the U.S. Military Court in Nuremberg in 1947, at the age of 27, after World War II. At the time, he had no experience leading court prosecutions.

His first lawsuit was against an SS officer who organized the Einsatzgruppen Mobile Assassination Squad operating in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. An estimated 2 million people were shot or beaten and their bodies dumped in pits. Most of the victims were Jewish.

The documentary evidence collected by Ferenc was so convincing that it was not necessary to rely on witnesses. At the beginning of his speech, Ferenc declared: It was later called the largest murder trial in history.

Twenty-two of the Einsatzgruppen’s 24 defendants were convicted of crimes against humanity. Fourteen were sentenced to death, and in the end he was hanged four. Ferenc did not demand the death penalty.

His second Nuremberg trial, in which he appeared as a special prosecutor, involved the Krupp Arms Control Group, which was indicted for crimes against humanity and exploitation of 100,000 slave laborers. 11 directors were convicted and from 3 years he served 12 years in prison.

Ferenc was born in the Transylvanian village of Shomkuta Mare, then in Hungary and later part of Romania. Shortly thereafter, his parents, Sarah (née Schwartz) and Joseph Ferencz, fled to the United States, taking his two children with them to escape anti-Semitism.

Benjamin grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. new york, at the time a region notorious for poverty and crime. On a scholarship to Harvard he went to law school, where he studied war crimes. In 1943 he enlisted as a soldier and fought from the beaches of Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge.

His legal experience summoned him to General George Patton’s headquarters, where he was recommissioned as a war crimes investigator.Buchenwald etc. concentration camp, he saw piles of corpses and emaciated survivors. His first goal was to seize the death records and communications that provided the evidence used at Nuremberg.

He was discharged after the war, returned to New York, practiced law, and married Gertrude Freed. In 1946, however, he was recruited to join the American War Crimes Unit at the Nuremberg Trials.

The couple spent the next decade in Germany, where four children were born, and Ferenc worked alongside General Telford Taylor, Chief Prosecutor of the U.S. Military Tribunal. When the trial ended in his 1949, Ferenc coordinated a claim for reparations against a group of Jewish survivors.

In 1956 he returned to New York and opened a law firm with Taylor, but then turned his attention to the campaign for a permanent International Criminal Court. He wrote law and popular books, and his final autobiography, Make It Count, was published earlier this year. One of Ferencz’s biggest regrets was that the United States consistently refused to ratify the ICC agreement, repeatedly “trying to kill the idea,” in his words.

It was in his later years that Ferenc’s contributions came to be recognized internationally. When he was in his 90s, a path along the International Court of Justice in The Hague was named after him, and benches were set up with the motto “Law, not War.”

Ferencz identified the problem that international criminal law is a patchwork and criminals who commit atrocities often escape justice. This is because many countries have not yet ratified international law of court. His answer was “Never give up!”

“He was inspiring because he managed to stay optimistic in the face of all kinds of fear,” said Philip Sands, professor of international law at University College London.

Sir Jeffrey Nice, a war crimes prosecutor at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, who also worked with Ferenc, described how he “transformed the trauma he experienced into … an enduring determination to learn from and teach.” Respected. .

Gertrude passed away in 2019. His son Don continued his father’s work in developing an international jurisdiction for the crime of aggression. He has three daughters, Nina, Robin and Keri, and his three grandchildren.

Benjamin Berel Ferencz, war crimes prosecutor, born March 11, 1920. Died April 7, 2023 Benjamin Ferenc Obituary | International Criminal Court

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