102-year-old Nazi prosecutor remains to be pushing for peace

Ferencz stated it took immense effort to maintain his feelings in verify.

“I knew that what I used to be seeing was horror,” he stated.

He advised himself: “Simply get on with the job, Benny. Simply get your proof. And get your ass out of there.”

Ferencz and his males collected 1000’s of paperwork on the camps and services in Berlin. They included detailed reviews on the Einsatzgruppen, particular SS items that roamed Nazi-occupied Europe and killed greater than 1 million folks.

The Nazis’ studious bookkeeping would quickly seal the destiny of a few of Hitler’s most notorious henchmen.

‘A sizzling potato’

The primary and best-known trial in Nuremberg kicked off in November 1945. It ended with the conviction of Herman Goring and 21 different prime Nazi lieutenants.

The U.S. determined to carry 12 extra trials in Nuremberg in opposition to Nazi judges, docs and different prime figures.

Ben Ferencz
Ben Ferencz.Courtesy Ben Ferencz

By the point Ferencz discovered the Einsatzgruppen data, the U.S. had already finalized plans for the opposite trials.

“I knew I had a sizzling potato,” he stated.

He flew to Nuremberg and advised Telford Taylor, the chief counsel for the prosecutions, that they have to add one other trial. However Telford stated it wasn’t doable. The finances had already been set and the Pentagon wasn’t eager on any extra trials.

“I received a little bit bit indignant,” Ferencz recalled. “I stated, ‘I’ve in my hand right here the mass homicide of 1,000,000 folks. Don’t inform me we are able to’t put them on trial.’

“He stated, ‘Nicely, are you able to do it along with your different work?’

I stated, ‘Certain.’ That’s how I received my first case.”

The trial started on Sept. 29, 1947. The defendants had been imposing figures — middle-aged males who had overseen the mass slaughter of harmless civilians. Ferencz was six months shy of his twenty eighth birthday and barely stood 5 toes tall.

He was so brief he needed to stand on books to succeed in the courtroom lectern. However he spoke with the facility and eloquence of a seasoned litigator.

“The defendants had been the merciless executioners whose terror wrote the blackest web page in human historical past,” he stated in his opening assertion. “Loss of life was their software and life their toy. If these males be immune, then legislation has misplaced its which means and man should reside in worry.”

Ferencz known as just one witness — a person who verified the authenticity of the data that documented the “cleaning” of Jews in cities throughout Europe.

All 22 defendants had been convicted, with 14 sentenced to dying. However solely 4 had been executed, together with Otto Ohlendorf, a infamous SS commander.

After the sentencing, Ferencz determined to satisfy with Ohlendorf in a courtroom holding cell. To not elicit a confession or probe his thoughts. Ferencz needed to increase a favor.

 Would Ohlendorf like him to ship a message to his household?

 “I had in thoughts that he had a spouse and 5 youngsters,” Ferencz stated. “Would he like me to say that he was sorry that he introduced shame on the household or one thing alongside these traces?”

 However Ohlendorf wasn’t . He launched right into a diatribe defending the Nazis, saying they had been proper to withstand the “communists” looking for to take over Germany and the remainder of the world.

Ferencz minimize him off midsentence and ended the dialog with three phrases uttered in German: “Goodbye, Mr. Ohlendorf.”

“There was no regret by any means,” Ferencz stated. “No regrets.”

‘Contagious optimism’

Within the years after the trial, he didn’t recede into personal life.

Ferencz was recruited to steer an effort to return property seized by the Nazis to its homeowners or their heirs — a first-of-its sort endeavor that led him to remain in Germany for 10 years. Throughout that interval, he was additionally known as in to assist negotiate a reparations settlement with the federal government of West Germany.

It was a fraught and harmful endeavor. Militant Jewish teams and others offended over the dealings with the Germans resorted to dying threats and letter bombs to discourage the folks concerned within the negotiations.

“One factor that folks don’t notice is how extremely harmful it was for these folks,” stated Greg Schneider, government vice chairman of the Convention on Jewish Materials Claims In opposition to Germany, or Claims Convention, a company created to barter the agreements and later deal with the dispersal of the cash.

“However Ben all the time spoke about it as if he had no different alternative — given what the survivors endured, that it could be unimaginable to him to surrender regardless of no matter risks he may face.”

The German authorities in the end agreed to compensate Holocaust victims all over the world.

West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was first to signal the deal in Luxembourg in 1952, however his pen had run out of ink so he borrowed one in all Ferencz’s — a pen that his spouse, Gertrude, whom he had began relationship as a youngster, had gifted him when he graduated from legislation college.

Because the settlement was finalized, roughly $90 billion has been distributed to Holocaust survivors, in accordance with the Claims Convention.

“He’s a treasure of humanity,” Schneider stated of Ferencz.

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