At 102, Benjamin Ferencz is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials. Born on March 11, 1920 to a Jewish family in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, Ben Ferencz moved with his family to America when he was ten months old. After graduating Harvard Law School in 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. As a member of an artillery battalion, Ferencz landed on the beaches of Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was later transferred to a newly created War Crimes Branch and tasked with collecting evidence of Nazi brutality. As part of his efforts, he joined the forces that liberated a number of concentration camps, including Buchenwald and Mauthausen. When asked about the haunting scenes he witnessed, Ferencz states that he “had peered into hell.” While scouring Nazi offices and archives in Berlin with researchers, he collected indisputable evidence, including the actual death registries. Soon after, Ferencz was assigned as Chief prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case, in which 22 members of Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen death squads were charged with murdering over a million Jewish men, women, and children. All 22 defendants were convicted and 13 were sentenced to death. Who could have imagined that this 27-year-old’s first case would be what many call the biggest murder trial in history!
Contributor: Jill Goltzer