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Sackler lecture to be given by Nuremberg prosecutor

by David Bauman - October 31, 2005

Benjamin Ferencz, a distinguished legal scholar who was a young prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials for Nazi war crimes after World War II, will deliver the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Human Rights titled “The Lessons of Nuremberg for Today and Tomorrow,” on Monday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Konover Auditorium.

The lecture is part of a series of events celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Ferencz is chairman of the Commission on an International Criminal Court of the World Association of Lawyers, an accredited non-governmental observer at the United Nations.

Now in his 80s, Ferencz remains an impassioned advocate for human rights and global peace, who devotes his time and energy to the daunting mission of changing society’s glorification of war to a reverence for peace. He is professor emeritus of international law at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y., where he taught a course on “The International Law of Peace,” and founded the Pace Peace Center.

Just 10 months old when his family moved to the United States, Ferencz was raised in New York and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1943. Immediately after graduation, he served in the military during World War II. 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.

In 1945, Ferencz was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army and returned to New York prepared to practice law. But at the age of 27 he was appointed as a Chief Prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg war crimes trials against the SS extermination squads that had been responsible for the murder of millions of European Jews.

With about 50 researchers, Ferencz was sent to Berlin to scour Nazi offices and archives for evidence of Nazi genocide by German officers, doctors, lawyers, judges, and others.

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg sentenced 22 Nazi criminals, including 13 defendants, to death.

Following the Nuremberg trials, Ferencz was director of the post-war restitution programs that helped formulate and implement the laws providing compensation to survivors of Nazi persecution.

After his experience as Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg 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 for human rights.

For the last 25 years, he has campaigned with other human rights advocates for the establishment of a permanent, international criminal tribunal. In 1998, the United Nations voted to create an International Criminal Court “to guarantee lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice.”

Ferencz continues to write and speak worldwide for international law and global peace.

He has written extensively about world peace. His books include Defining International Aggression: The Search for World Peace (1975); Less Than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation (1979); An International Criminal Court: A Step Toward World Peace (1980); Enforcing International Law: A Way to World Peace (1983); Planethood: The Key to Your Future (1991); and New Legal Foundations for Global Survival (1994).

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