American Benjamin Ferencz, who was the last prosecutor in the Nuremberg trial, died at the age of 104 after a life dedicated to international justice, his son announced.
“He died peacefully in his sleep on Friday night in a nursing home in the US state of Florida. If my father could have made one more statement, I’m sure he would have said law, not war,” said Donald Ferenc.
Ferenc was 27 years old when he became US Attorney during the Einsatzgruppe trials in 1947. A total of 22 members of that extermination unit were convicted after their crimes were discovered.
That unit accompanied the German soldiers who were advancing in the eastern part of Europe.
Based on Nazi archives, Ferenc estimated that the unit killed more than a million Jewish men, women and children. These were victims killed by firearms in the Holocaust.
Ferenc was born in 1920 in the Carpathians in a Jewish family. His parents left for the US when he was 10 months old. He studied law at the prestigious Harvard University.
He was mobilized during the Second World War. He was first deployed to the battlefields of Europe before being tasked with collecting evidence of Nazi crimes.
In a book published in 1988, he explained that he was forever marked by the liberation of the Nazi camps.
“I will never be able to forget the sight of death and the cremation ovens of bodies… emaciated bodies piled up like firewood,” Ferenc said in the book.
Upon his return to civilian life, he was recruited to work on a team of U.S. prosecutors at Nuremberg, where the Allies tried Nazi crimes over 13 trials, laying the foundations for an international criminal justice system.
Returning to the US, he devoted himself to private law practice. He wrote and advocated for the establishment of an international criminal court.
More discreet in recent years, he gave a rare interview to the CBS channel in May. Then he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal” and that Russia should be tried by international justice for “aggression against Ukraine”.