My father’s first cousin, Benjamin Ferencz, died on April 7th at the age of 103. He was famous for being the youngest prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. At 27 years old, his first trial, he convicted 22 high ranking SS German officers of killing over 1 million Jews. The Associated Press called the trial, “the biggest murder trial in history”. The horrors of WWII never faded, and he dedicated his life to helping victims of persecution.
Growing up my father would talk about cousin “Benny”, but I don’t remember meeting him as a child. Around 1980 Benny visited my parents and gave them a copy of his book “Less Than Slaves”, which gave me a glimpse into Benny’s amazing life. The book chronicles Benny’s fight for restitution from the largest German industrial firms that used Jewish slave labor to fuel the Nazi war machine. He coined the term “Less than slaves” because a slave owner has an interest in keeping the slave fed, clothed and healthy, whereas the German industrialists could work the slaves to death knowing they had an endless supply of Jewish labor.
In the fall of 2019, my mom called to tell me that Benny Ferencz was speaking at the 92nd Street Y, before the premier of the film “Prosecuting Evil” a documentary on his extraordinary life. I had the honor of meeting him before the show and later, after the show, we had a chance to talk. At 99 years old his message was clear, wars have no winners, disputes between nations should be settled in international courts.
If you would like to learn more about my extraordinary cousin, I suggest seeing the documentary “Prosecuting Evil”, (rent on Amazon for $1.99), reading his obituary in the NY Times, or reading his book “Parting Words: 9 lessons for a remarkable life” (purchase on Amazon).
image: “File:Benjamin Ferencz – Chief Prosecutor in 1947 Einsatzgruppen Trial – In Courtroom 600 Where Nuremberg Trials Were Held – Palace of Justice – Nuremberg-Nurnberg – Germany – 04.jpg” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.