By Chiara Logli
"Hope is the engine
that drives human endeavor. It generates the energy
needed to achieve the difficult goals that lie ahead.
Never lose faith that the dreams of today for a more
lawful world can become the reality of tomorrow. Never
stop trying to make this a more humane universe."
Benjamin Ferencz was born in the Carpathian mountains
of Transylvania on March 11, 1920. He was just ten-months
old when his family moved to the United States. He was
raised in New York and graduated from the Harvard Law
School in 1943. Immediately after graduation, Ferencz
saw military service in World War II. As an enlisted man
under General Patton, he fought in every campaign in Europe
and joined in the liberation of German concentration camps.
As Nazi atrocities were uncovered, he was transferred
to a newly created War Crime Branch of the Army to gather
evidence of Nazi brutality and to arrest the criminals.
"I was in many of the concentration camps,
all of those liberated by Patton’s 3rd Army, when
the crematoria were still burning. I have dug up bodies
with my bare hands. I have seen man’s inhumanity
to man in ways that are not comprehensible to a rational
In 1945, Ferencz was honorably discharged from the US
Army with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry. He returned
to New York and prepared to practice law. Shortly after,
at the age of 27, he was designated as a Chief Prosecutor
for the United States at the Nuremberg war crimes trials
against the SS extermination squads responsible for the
genocidal murder of over a million innocent victims. Ferencz
was sent with about fifty researchers to Berlin to scour
Nazi offices and archives. They gathered evidence of Nazi
genocide by German officers, doctors, lawyers, judges,
and all others who organized and committed Nazi atrocities.
"Nuremberg declared, for the first time, that
it was illegal to wage a war of aggression. That the
persons who planned such wars would be held accountable
in a court of law. That crimes against humanity such
as the genocide committed against the Jews and gypsies
and others, were punishable international criminal offenses
for which those responsible would be held accountable.
That war crimes, which had been prohibited under international
law since 1899 and earlier, would be punished."
The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg sentenced
twenty-two Nazi criminals, including thirteen defendants
to death. The verdict was hailed as a great success for
the prosecution. The Associated Press defined the Nuremberg
war crimes trial as "the biggest murder trial in
history." In addition to this trial, many other trials
of Nazi war criminals took place at Nuremberg, including
those prosecuted by Ferencz.
Ferencz was also the director of post-war restitution
programs and helped to formulate and implement the laws
providing compensation to survivors of Nazi persecution.
His abhorrence of all crimes against humanity stimulated
his determination to dedicate himself to creating a world
order where all could live in peace and dignity regardless
of their race or faith. His primary goal was to establish
a legal precedent which would encourage a more humane
and secure world in the future. After the intense experience
as Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials,
Ferencz decided to withdraw from the private practice
of law and devote his knowledge and energies to participating
effectively in the creation of a more peaceful world,
based on the rule of law and respect of human rights.
For the last quarter-century, he has campaigned for a
permanent, international criminal court with power to
enforce its judgments, because, as he says, what we have
right now is "a system which more resembles the Wild
West in America than an international legal order."
"Nuremberg taught me that creating a world
of tolerance and compassion would be a long and arduous
task. And I also learned that if we did not devote ourselves
to developing effective world law, the same cruel mentality
that made the Holocaust possible might one day destroy
the entire human race."
Ferencz is chairman of the Commission on an International
Criminal Court of the World Association of Lawyers and,
at the age of 79, he remains active in many peace and
international law organizations. He is Professor Emeritus
at Pace Law School where he founded a Peace Center and
taught "The International Law of Peace." Ferencz
has written widely on problems of world peace and international
war crimes. Among his books are Defining International
Aggression – The Search for World Peace (1975),
An International Criminal Court – A Step Toward
World Peace (1980), and Enforcing International Law –
A Way to World Peace (1983). He has also written, for
the lay audience, A Common Sense Guide to World Peace
(1985) and Planethood - The Key to Your Future (1988).
Ferencz is also an accredited non-governmental observer
at the United Nations and a frequent lecturer. He continues
to write and speak worldwide for international law and
global peace, always supported by his helpful and encouraging
wife, Gertrude. They have been married since March 31,
1946, have four grown children and live in New York State.
Chiara Logli served as an intern at the Nuclear Age
Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara, California, during
1999. She is a political science major at the University
of Bologna in Italy. She studied for one year at University
of California at Santa Barbara.