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46 Int'l L. News 21 (2017)
Interview: Benjamin Ferencz, U.S. Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg Trials

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INTERVIEW


BENJAMIN BERELL FERENCZ

U.S. CHIEF PROSECUTOR AT NUREMBERG TRIAL

By Renee  Dopplick


tienjann Ferencz kNew RoChelle,
NY, 2001); photo by Der Spiegel


Benjamin   B. Ferencz  was  born in
Transylvania in 1920  and moved  to
America when  he was ten months old.
After he graduated from Harvard Law
School in 1943, he enlisted in the U.S.
Army. Under  General Patton, Ferencz
fought in every major battle of the war.
He was later transferred to a newly created
War Crimes Branch to gather evidence of
Nazi brutality When the war was over,
Ferencz returned to New York and was
subsequently recruited for the Nuremberg
war crimes trials. At 27 years old, Ferencz
was named Chief Prosecutor for the United
States in the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen
Case. The Associated Press called it the
biggest murder trial in history Twenty-
two  defendants  were charged  with
murdering over a million people. It was
his first case. Since then, Ferencz has
devoted his life to studying and writing
about world peace and replacing the rule
of force with the rule of law. He lives with
his wife, Gertrude, in New Rochelle, New
York, and Delray Beach, Florida.
Your legal career has been one of dis-
covery, risk taking, and thinking about
the future. What has motivated you to
push for rule of law and a more peace-
ful, humane, and secure world?
My  parents fled poverty and persecu-
tion and came to the United States. We


lived in poverty most of the time. Even-
tually, I won a scholarship at Harvard
Law  School  for my exam  in crimi-
nal law, and I had decided then, even
before the war, to devote myself to try-
ing to prevent crimes, which I had seen
all around me living in Hell's Kitchen
in New York.
   At the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, the
waging of aggressive war was indelibly
branded as the supreme international
crime. I didn't have to go to Nuremberg
to learn that. I was a combat soldier who
entered the war shortly after the war
began. I was then 23 years old. I saw the
horrors with my own eyes. My assign-
ment was to go into the concentration
camps as they were liberated to collect
evidence of the horrors and atrocities so
that they could be used in the trial against
the perpetrators and that is what I did.
   After the war, I was unemployed like
10 million other solders, and I was invited
by the Pentagon to return to Germany to
help with the subsequent Nuremberg tri-
als. It was there that I became the Chief
Prosecutor of this most significant trial.
What was most significant about it was it
gave us and it gave me an insight into the
mentality of mass murderers. They had
murdered over a million people, including
hundreds of thousands of children in cold
blood, and I wanted to understand how
it is that educated people - many of them
had PhDs or they were generals in the Ger-
man Army-could   not only tolerate but
lead and commit such horrible crimes.
   The reason I have continued to devote
most of my life to preventing war, is my
awareness that the next war will make
the last one look like childs play We have
devoted all of our energy and money to
building new weapons. We have failed to
build the instruments necessary for peace-
ful settlement of disputes, and the result is
that the funds which are needed to care for


refugees, for students, and for the aged, are
wasted in an arms race for more destruc-
tive weapons from cyberspace, which can
cut off the electrical grid on any city on this
planet, with the result of almost immediate
death to most of the population.
   We will never succeed in ending wars
totally; however, we can be a catalyst for
moving in the right direction. That is what
I have been doing. I've been moving a
heavy rock up the hill, but there has been
great progress. The progress goes up and
then it comes down. It circulates-upward
slowly and up and down. We have made
fantastic progress over the years, but we
still have a very long way to go because
its interrelated with so many other things;
however, if I am going to have any impact
at all, it seemed to me that I would be as
a catalyst focusing on the rule of law and
having that be used as a prime instrument
to have people recognize that war itself has
got to be abolished.
During  the course of your career, you
saw  the creation and expansion  of
international criminal law. How would
you describe its growth?
The main principles of the Nuremberg
trials were affirmed by the UN Gen-
eral Assembly and have been accepted
as binding principles of international
law. Among  those principles are the
conclusion  that crimes are commit-
ted by individuals, that the law must
apply equally to everyone, that heads
of state are liable, that there is no excuse
for crimes despite your rank, and fun-
damentally that crimes which are so
offensive as to shock the conscience of
humankind   should be condemned  as
crimes against humanity These princi-
ples seem to me to be very sound then,
and they continue to be very sound.
   Declaring the  law is one thing;
respecting or enforcing it is another. The
legal community, government leaders,


N N A NWINTER 2018


IN1IE RNAllUINAL  LAW  NEWS

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