Last Surviving Nuremberg Prosecutor Passes Away


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

Harvard-educated lawyer Benjamin Ferencz passed away peacefully at 103 in an assisted living facility in Boynton Beach, Florida on April 7.

A statement posted to Twitter by the US Holocaust Museum read, “Today the world lost a leader in the quest for justice for victims of genocide and related crimes. We mourn the death of Ben Ferencz— the last Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor.”

Ferencz fought in Europe during World War II and helped liberate dozens of concentration camps before practicing law in New York. Soon after, Ferencz was recruited to help prosecute Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, despite having no prior trial experience.

By the age of 27, he was named Chief Prosecutor for Nuremberg’s Einsatzgruppen trial and ended up trying 22 Nazis for crimes against humanity.

The men on trial during the Nuremberg trials commanded Hitler’s roaming SS extermination squads, killing approximately one million victims.

Ferencz was a talented lawyer and speaker, beginning his very first opening statement in a courtroom with the now-famous quote, “Vengeance is not our goal. Nor do we seek merely a just retribution. We ask this court to affirm by international penal action man’s right to live in peace and dignity, regardless of his race or creed. The case we present is a plea to humanity.”

All 22 men tried were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

After the trials ended, Ferencz remained in West Germany to help holocaust survivors obtain reparations from the newly formed German government.

Ferencz continued to fight for justice and equality his entire life. He campaigned for decades for an international court to be established. In 2002, his dream came true with the International Criminal Court, an organization dedicated to trying those found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ferencz is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the ICC.

In Jan. 2023, Ferencz was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal; however, he was unable to attend the ceremony due to his declining health.

Ferencz is survived by his son and three daughters, all of whom are following in their father’s legacy of protecting human rights.