Last Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Ben Ferencz dies aged 103

Ferencz's first case resulted in the conviction of 22 former Nazi commanders for war crimes. Later in life, the Jewish lawyer championed the idea of the International Criminal Court.

Last Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Ben Ferencz dies aged 103
Last Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Ben Ferencz dies aged 103


Benjamin Berell Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor who held Nazi war criminals accountable at the Nuremberg trials, has died. He was 103 years old.

Ferencz died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes on Friday night at an assisted living facility in Florida, his son Donald Ferencz said on Saturday.

The US Holocaust Museum said "the world lost a leader in the quest for justice for victims of genocide and related crimes."

Prosecuting Nazi war criminals

Ferencz was born to Orthodox Jewish parents in Transylvania in 1920. When he was just 10 months old, his family emigrated to the United States to escape rampant antisemitism.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, he enlisted in the American war effort and was present at the liberation of several concentration camps.

At the age of 27, with no previous trial experience, Ferencz became chief prosecutor for the 1947 Einsatzgruppen trial in which 22 former SS commanders were charged for the murder of over 1 million Jews in occupied eastern Europe during the Holocaust, as well as Romani people and other victims of the Nazi regime.

All of the defendants were convicted.

A legacy of justice

After the Nuremberg trials, Ferencz worked for a consortium of Jewish charities that helped Holocaust survivors regain properties, homes, businesses, artworks, Torah scrolls, and other Jewish religious items that had been stolen by the Nazis.

Throughout much of his life and especially in his later years, Ferencz championed the idea of an international court that could prosecute the leaders of any government for war crimes.

Ferencz's dream was realized in 2002 with the establishment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which he referred to as his "baby."

"Ben's unwavering pursuit of a more peaceful and just world spanned almost eight decades and forever shaped how we respond to humanity's worst crimes," said Sara Bloomfield, director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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