Ben Ferencz, last living Nuremberg prosecutor of Nazi war crimes, dead at 103

Warning: This text features a graphic reference to the Holocaust.

Ben Ferencz, the final dwelling prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials who prosecuted Nazis for genocidal conflict crimes, has died at 103.

Ferencz was among the many first exterior witnesses to doc the atrocities of Nazi labour and focus camps. He died Friday night in Boynton Seaside, Fla., based on John Barrett, a St. John’s College legislation professor who runs a weblog concerning the Nuremberg trials.

The dying additionally was confirmed by the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington.

“In the present day the world misplaced a frontrunner within the quest for justice for victims of genocide and associated crimes,” the museum tweeted.

Born in Transylvania in 1920, Ferencz immigrated as a younger boy together with his mother and father to New York to flee rampant anti-Semitism. After graduating from Harvard Regulation Faculty, Ferencz joined the U.S. military in time to participate within the Normandy invasion in the course of the Second World Warfare. Utilizing his authorized background, he grew to become an investigator of Nazi conflict crimes towards U.S. troopers as a part of a brand new Warfare Crimes Part of the Choose Advocate’s Workplace.

When U.S. intelligence stories described troopers encountering giant teams of ravenous folks in Nazi camps watched over by SS guards, Ferencz adopted up with visits, first on the Ohrdruf labour camp in Germany after which on the infamous Buchenwald focus camp. At these camps and later others, he discovered our bodies “piled up like cordwood” and “helpless skeletons with diarrhea, dysentery, typhus, TB, pneumonia, and different illnesses, retching of their louse ridden bunks or on the bottom with solely their pathetic eyes pleading for assist,” Ferencz wrote in an account of his life.

“The Buchenwald focus camp was a charnel home of indescribable horrors,” Ferencz wrote. “There is no such thing as a doubt that I used to be indelibly traumatized by my experiences as a conflict crimes investigator of Nazi extermination centres. I nonetheless strive to not speak or take into consideration the main points.”

At one level towards the top of the conflict, Ferencz was despatched to Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat within the Bavarian Alps to seek for incriminating paperwork, however got here again empty handed.

After the conflict, Ferencz was honourably discharged from the U.S. military and returned to New York to start practising legislation. However that was quick lived. Due to his experiences as a conflict crimes investigator, he was recruited to assist prosecute Nazi conflict criminals on the Nuremberg trials, which had begun underneath the management of U.S. Supreme Court docket Justice Robert Jackson. Earlier than leaving for Germany, he married his childhood sweetheart, Gertrude.

At 27, with no earlier trial expertise, Ferencz grew to become chief prosecutor for a 1947 case during which 22 former commanders had been charged with killing over one million Jews, Roma and different enemies of the Third Reich in Japanese Europe. Somewhat than relying on witnesses, Ferencz largely relied on official German paperwork to make his case. All of the defendants had been convicted, and greater than a dozen had been sentenced to dying by hanging although Ferencz hadn’t requested for the dying penalty.

“At the start of April 1948, when the lengthy authorized judgment was learn, I felt vindicated,” he wrote. “Our pleas to guard humanity by the rule of legislation had been upheld.”

People in suits are seen sitting inside a courtroom in this photo from the 1940's.
Ferencz, left, is seen in the course of the Nuremberg trials in September 1947. (Courtesy of Benjamin Ferencz)

With the conflict crimes trials winding down, Ferencz went to work for a consortium of Jewish charitable teams to assist Holocaust survivors regain properties, properties, companies, artwork works, Torah scrolls and different Jewish spiritual gadgets that had been confiscated from them by the Nazis. He additionally later assisted in negotiations that will result in compensation to the Nazi victims.

In later a long time, Ferencz championed the creation of a global courtroom that may prosecute any authorities’s leaders for conflict crimes. These goals had been realized in 2002 with institution of the Worldwide Prison Court docket in The Hague, although its effectiveness has been restricted by the failure of nations just like the United State to take part.

Ferencz is survived by a son and three daughters. His spouse died in 2019.

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