Fact Hero: Benjamin Ferencz — Former Prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials

by | May 30, 2021 | Fact Heroes

Chief prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz presents documents as evidence at the Einsatzgruppen Trial. Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Benjamin Ferencz

Fact Hero: Benjamin Ferencz — Former Prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials

by | May 30, 2021 | Fact Heroes

Chief prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz presents documents as evidence at the Einsatzgruppen Trial. Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Benjamin Ferencz

Benjamin B. Ferencz was born in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania in 1920. When he was ten months old his family moved to America. His earliest memories are of his small basement apartment in a Manhattan district—appropriately referred to as “Hell’s Kitchen.”

On the day after Christmas 1945, Ferencz was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry. He returned to New York and prepared to practice law. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited for the Nuremberg war crimes trials. The International Military Tribunal prosecution against German Field Marshal, Herman Goering and other leading Nazis was already in progress under the leadership the American Prosecutor, Robert M. Jackson on leave from the US Supreme Court. The U.S. had decided to prosecute a broad cross section of Nazi criminals once the trial against Goering and his henchmen was over.

General Telford Taylor was assigned as Chief of Counsel for 12 subsequent trials. Ferencz was sent with about fifty researchers to Berlin to scour Nazi offices and archives. In their hands lay overwhelming evidence of Nazi genocide by German doctors, lawyers, judges, generals, industrialists, and others who played leading roles in organizing or perpetrating Nazi brutalities. Without pity or remorse, the SS murder squads killed every Jewish man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on. Gypsies, communist functionaries, and Soviet intellectuals suffered the same fate. It was tabulated that over a million persons were deliberately murdered by these special “action groups,” or Einsatzgruppen.

Ferencz became Chief Prosecutor for the United States in The Einsatzgruppen Case, which the Associated Press called “the biggest murder trial in history.” Twenty-two defendants were charged with murdering over a million people. He was only twenty-seven years old. It was his first case.

All of the defendants were convicted. Thirteen were sentenced to death. The verdict was hailed as a great success for the prosecution. Ferencz’s primary objective had been to establish a legal precedent that would encourage a more humane and secure world in the future.

After the trial, Mr. Ferencz fought for compensation for victims and survivors of the Holocaust, the return of stolen assets, and other forms of restitution for those who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Part of his bio on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial states,

In the decades since the Nuremberg Trials, Mr. Ferencz has dedicated his life to ending war and promoting justice. A testament to his commitment to these efforts, Mr. Ferencz partnered with the Museum to launch the Ferencz International Justice Initiative in 2017 to coincide with the 70-year anniversary of the Einsatzgruppen Trial at Nuremberg, in which he was Chief Prosecutor. He has been a strong proponent of the International Criminal Court, of reaching international consensus around a definition of the crime of aggression, and of other mechanisms to hold high-level perpetrators to account for mass atrocities. He is compelled by the imperative to “replace the rule of force with the rule of law,” by ending warfare in favor of judicial mechanisms that can resolve conflict. He often tells young people to “never give up” because the fight for peace and justice is worth the long struggle ahead.

Benjamin Ferencz is a truly selfless individual who made certain that the facts of these atrocities were never to be swept away, minimized or covered up. He is still with us today at the age of 101.

Read more about Ben Ferencz at these links:

Related Articles

Jul 12 2021

Congressional Democrats Need to Take Lesson from Texas

As Texas state Democratic lawmakers on Monday undertook a daring effort to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to ram through a sweeping voter...
Jun 21 2021

Fact Hero: Daryl Davis — Making Ex-Klansmen, One at a Time

Musician Daryl Davis has an unusual hobby that sets him apart. Daryl meets and becomes friends with members of the Ku Klux Klan—something few black men can say.
Jun 15 2021

Fact Hero: Brent Wisner — The 2 Billion Dollar Man

How R. Brent Wisner landed one of the largest product-defect jury awards in history.
Jun 12 2021

Darnella Frazier Receives Pulitzer Special Citation

Darnella Frazier, the Minnesota teen whose cellphone video recording of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck last May was key piece of prosecution...
Jun 05 2021

Fact Hero: Valedictorian Paxton Smith Speaks Out Against Texas’ Extreme Anti-Choice Law

Paxton Smith’s valedictorian graduation speech garnered attention from Democratic lawmakers and rights advocates Wednesday after going viral on social media—not...
May 28 2021

How Necessity Turns the Ordinary Among Us into Heroes

Necessity can make us all heroes. We see a need, something that unifies us. And we go all the way into Action.
Alice Paul
May 01 2021

Fact Hero: Alice Paul, the Women’s Right to Vote and the ERA

Alice Paul is one of the most influential and significant advocates for women’s rights in history. Along with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and scores of...
darnella frazier
Apr 24 2021

Fact Hero: Darnella Frazier

If not for Darnella Frazier’s quick thinking, Derek Chauvin might still be a Minneapolis police officer. Instead, Chauvin is behind bars.
Apr 13 2021

Fact Heroes: Percy Schmeiser, the Farmer Who Fought Monsanto

Percy Schmeiser was a farmer who found himself under attack by one of the largest chemical companies in the world, Monsanto. His story has been made into a major motion...
Apr 13 2021

Fact Heroes: Heather Cox Richardson — Making History Anything but Boring

Heather Cox Richardson’s daily newsletters, “Letters from an American,” have become a fact beacon in the lie-strewn political landscape of...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Updates!

Subscribe for Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This