Ben Ferencz, the final residing prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials, who tried Nazis for genocidal warfare crimes and was among the many first outdoors witnesses to doc the atrocities of Nazi labor and focus camps, has died at 103.
Ferencz died Friday night in Boynton Seashore, Fla., in keeping with St. John’s College regulation professor John Barrett, who runs a weblog in regards to the Nuremberg trials. The dying additionally was confirmed by america Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
“Right now 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 along with his dad and mom to New York to flee rampant antisemitism. After graduating from Harvard Regulation College, Ferencz joined the U.S. Military in time to participate within the Normandy invasion throughout World Battle II.
Utilizing his authorized background, he grew to become an investigator of Nazi warfare crimes towards U.S. troopers as a part of a brand new Battle Crimes Part of the Decide Advocate’s Workplace.
When U.S. intelligence stories described troopers encountering giant teams of ravenous individuals in Nazi camps watched over by SS guards, Ferencz adopted up with visits, first on the Ohrdruf labor 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 warfare crimes investigator of Nazi extermination facilities. I nonetheless strive to not discuss or take into consideration the main points.”
At one level towards the top of the warfare, 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 warfare, Ferencz was honorably discharged from the U.S. Military and returned to New York to start training regulation. However that was short-lived. Due to his experiences as a warfare crimes investigator, he was recruited to assist prosecute Nazi warfare criminals on the Nuremberg trials, which had begun below the management of U.S. Supreme Court docket Justice Robert Jackson. Earlier than leaving for Germany, he married his childhood sweetheart, Gertrude.
On the age of 27, with no earlier trial expertise, Ferencz grew to become chief prosecutor for a 1947 case by which 22 former commanders had been charged with murdering greater than 1 million Jews, Romani and different enemies of the Third Reich in Jap Europe. Moderately than relying on witnesses, Ferencz principally 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 regardless that 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 regulation had been upheld.”
With the warfare crimes trials winding down, Ferencz went to work for a consortium of Jewish charitable teams to assist Holocaust survivors regain properties, properties, companies, artworks, Torah scrolls, and different Jewish non secular objects that had been confiscated 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 world courtroom that might prosecute any authorities’s leaders for warfare crimes. These desires 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 equivalent to america to take part.
Ferencz is survived by a son and three daughters. His spouse died in 2019.