Benjamin Ferencz


                                                          Benjamin Ferencz

This week’s blog entry follows a different path from my usual postings. Following last week’s entry about the lawyer/author Phillipe Sands’ book East West Street which includes an account of the Nuremberg Trials, an obituary appeared in the New York Times for Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor at those trials who died at 103. I encourage you to read his obituary. It is an inspiring story of a man who saw firsthand the horrors of the Holocaust while serving in the US Army, then later prosecuted members of the Ensatzgruppin, a unit that was actively involved in killing over a million Jews. These experiences led him to devote his life to the pursuit of international peace.

My friend Roxana Enriquez, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, now works for an organization everyone should be aware of, Facing History and Ourselves. She read the blog entry and sent me this link to a short video about Mr. Ferencz called Watcher of the Sky, which captures the spirit of this extraordinary man in a way that the obituary does not.

I have to pause here to sing the praises of Facing History. The organization was founded by teachers in the 70s who were interested in preparing themselves and their colleagues to teach about the Holocaust in ways that would be accessible to children at all grade levels. Since then, the work has expanded into many other areas of racism, injustice and genocide from Little Rock to Rwanda. I especially wanted to mention the incredible library of resource materials that is available free to the public. That’s where the Benjamin Ferencz video is housed.

When I sent the link to the Ferencz video to my friend Roy Furman, he told me that he had found a longer video interview with him, recorded when he was over 100 years old. It is available on the Holocaust Museum website, which is also the home of the Benjamin Ferencz International Justice initiative. It’s a fifty-minute jolt of inspiration.

One more piece that flowed from last week’s posting. John Barrett is a law professor at St. John’s University in New York. He is also the brother of another dear friend, Karen Girolami Callam. Karen sent my blog post to him, and Professor Barrett sent me a lovely note, which made me feel like I had won the trifecta. Not only is he a friend of Phillipe Sands, the author who started me down this path to Nuremberg; he also considers Ferencz one of his mentors. Finally, Barrett is the foremost scholar on the life and works of Associate Chief Justice Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. I would encourage you to follow my lead in signing up for The Jackson List which he curates. It contains material about the Nuremberg Trials and other aspects of the career of this extraordinary jurist.

Now, I know that most of you won’t take advantage of all the resources I’ve listed here, but I hope it will at least have made you aware of Benjamin Ferencz’s (and Justice Jackson’s) contributions to the pursuit of international justice. The work to which they devoted themselves is far from finished.

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Marv Hoffman
By Marv Hoffman

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