A Passionate Advocate of International Law

Publié le par Federal Foreign Office

Federal Foreign OfficeFederal Foreign Office published 02/06/2010



In a ceremony at the Federal Foreign Office, Benjamin B. Ferencz has been awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his lifelong commitment to international law. Ferencz was chief prosecutor in one of the Nuremberg follow-up trials and sought to uphold the interests of Nazi forced laborers. After the end of the Cold War he was committed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

“A legal order for the entire world”

Ferencz BenjaminBen Ferencz has seen everything: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, a war of aggression.” This was how Susanne Marianne Wasum-Rainer, Head of the Legal Directorate-General at the Federal Foreign Office, delivering the laudatory address at the May 27 ceremony, described the situation Ferencz found himself in immediately after the second world war.

In 1946 Ferencz worked for the prosecution during the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal; in 1947, aged just 27, he was chief prosecutor in the so-called “Einsatzgruppen Trial” dealing with the mass murder of approximately one million people in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. This trial was also called “the biggest murder trial in history.” All 22 defendants – mainly high-ranking SS generals – were convicted.

Despite the horrors with which he was confronted over those years, Ferencz remained open to Germany and the Germans. Describing the Nuremberg trials, he said it hadn’t been a trial against Germany. The aim was to create a more sensible and more humane legal order for the entire world.

Work on the Reparations Agreement

Ferencz played a key role on the US-Jewish side in the negotiations on the 1952 Reparations Agreement (Luxembourg Agreement) between the Federal Republic of Germany, Israel and the Jewish Claims Conference. This Agreement laid the foundations for reparations for Nazi injustice. Ferencz remained in Germany until 1954, working also to obtain compensation for former Nazi forced laborers. He then returned to New York.

Commitment to an International Criminal Court

Influenced by his experiences at Nuremberg and by the Vietnam War, Ferencz embarked on his work towards the establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC). He published several definitive works on the subject and taught as a professor of international law. Ferencz was involved in the preliminary work for the Rome Statute of the ICC, which was adopted in 1998.

Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit

On February 26, 2010, Federal President Horst Köhler decided to confer the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on Professor Benjamin B. Ferencz. Ferencz accepted the honor in a ceremony at the Federal Foreign Office on May 27.

Born in the Carpathian Mountains in 1920, the son of Jewish parents, Benjamin B. Ferencz grew up in New York, where he later studied law. He joined the US Army and took part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Today, at the age of 90, he lives with his wife Gertrude in New York state and remains actively committed to international law.


Publié dans Articles de Presse

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