Updated: Jun 10
The world has lost a legendary legal figure with the passing of Ben Ferencz. Born in 1920 in Transylvania, Romania, Ferencz and his family migrated to the United States when he was young to flee anti-Semitism. After graduating from Harvard Law School and enlisting in the US Army, Ferencz participated in the Allied landings at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He was subsequently recruited to prosecute Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, where he played a crucial role as the chief prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen trial.
Mr. Ferencz was the youngest member of the prosecution team, and his lack of prior trial experience did not prevent him from making groundbreaking contributions. He was responsible for developing the legal theory and presenting evidence against the Einsatzgruppen, a group of mobile SS death squads operating in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe and killing over one million people. He introduced the concept of crimes against humanity, which later became a significant part of international law.
Mr. Ferencz’s efforts did not stop there. He continued to advocate for establishing an international court to prosecute war crimes, which became a reality in 2002 with the creation of the International Criminal Court. Ferencz later became a professor of international law and wrote several books on the subject. His dedication to making the world a more humane place and his contribution to the Nuremberg trials and international law will inspire future generations.
Mr. Ferencz’s death marks the end of an era, where the last of the Nuremberg Trials seem to fade away in history, but that is certainly not the case - the beacon of justice upheld by the trials inspires millions of people today to work towards that same goal - remembrance of the past to push for more social justice.
As LACAH's first trial in 2020, the organization put a past Nazi criminal charged with spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, Julius Streicher, on the stand. Streicher’s case sets an important precedent for understanding justice in the context of war crimes. By investigating and prosecuting individuals like Streicher, LACAH hopes to promote accountability for past atrocities and prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future. The organization's focus on education and remembrance hopes to honor Mr. Ferencz's legacy by inspiring young students to uphold justice.