Friday, May 30, 2008
Benjamin Berell Ferencz (b. March 11, 1920) was an investigator of Nazi war crimes after World War II and the Chief Prosecutor for the United States Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the twelve military trials held by the U.S. authorities at Nuremberg, Germany. Later, he became a vocal advocate of the establishment of the international rule of law and of an International Criminal Court.
Born in Transylvania, Ferencz and his family immigrated to the United States when he was an infant to avoid the persecution of Hungarian Jews after Hungary had ceded the territory where they lived to Romania after World War I.
The family settled in "Hell's Kitchen" on the Lower East Side in Manhattan of New York City. Ferencz later studied crime prevention at the City College of New York and won a scholarship to Harvard Law School.
After law school, Ferencz joined the U.S. Army, where he served in an anti-aircraft artillery unit. In 1945, he was transferred to the headquarters of General Patton's Third Army, where he was assigned to a team tasked with setting up a war crimes branch. In this function, he was then sent to the concentration camps as they were liberated by the U.S. Army.
After discharged from the Army, Ferencz returned to New York, but was recruited only a few weeks later to participate as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials. He was appointed him Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case—Ferencz's first case. All of the 22 men on trial were convicted; 14 of them received death sentences.
Ferencz stayed in Germany after the Nuremberg Trials. He participated in establishing reparation and rehabilitation programs for the victims of persecutions by the Nazis, and also had a part in the negotiations that led to the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany (1952) and the first German Restitution Law (1953).
In 1957, Ferencz and his returned to the United States. After more than a decade in private law practice, Ferencz left to work for the institution of an International Criminal Court. He also published several books. His first book, published in 1975, Defining International Aggression-The Search for Peace, argued for the creation of an international criminal court.
From 1985 to 1996, Ferencz also worked as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University.
An International Criminal Court was indeed established on July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered in force.
Ben Ferencz's website includes much information about him, his publications, and life.