It has been nearly 70 years since Benjamin Ferencz prosecuted a portion of the 185 defendants in the Nuremberg trials. On Sunday, Jan. 25, he spoke at the Atlanta Jewish Academy about the event as if it happened yesterday.
Speaking on the topic of “Justice and Response” to an over-capacity crowd of nearly 800, Ferencz relayed his message that law can help deter the illegal use of armed force.
“I am devoting the rest of my life to finally criminalize and hold personally accountable those responsible for the illegal use of armed force,” Ferencz said. “Self-defense is permissible. The United Nations charter prohibits other acts of armed force.”
Am Yisrael Chai’s 2015 Holocaust remembrance event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Tuesday, Jan. 27, and featured Ferencz as the keynote speaker. The Hungarian-born American lawyer served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was among the concentration camp liberators.
He is the last living chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials, held from 1946 to 1949. In his role as liberator and as prosecutor, he appears in the documentary “Night Will Fall,” showing Feb. 2 (tickets available) and Feb. 17 (sold out) at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
Ferencz was 27 when he opened prosecution at the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen trial in 1947.
“Benjamin Ferencz provides a unique and incredible opportunity for the Atlanta community to hear his perspective on the Nuremberg trials and the lessons learned from the Holocaust,” Am Yisrael Chai Atlanta’s president, Andrea Videlefsky, said before the event.
In a scene from “Night Will Fall,” Benjamin Ferencz, then a 27-year-old war veteran, makes his opening statement at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials in 1946. (Photo courtesy of Spring Films)
The event was so well attended that 100 members of the crowd had to sit outside the auditorium to listen. Ferencz was introduced by son Don, who is also a lawyer. Together they created the Planethood Foundation, an organization that “advocates replacing the law of force with the force of law.”
Am Yisrael Chai held the event to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day two days later (Jan 27). The U.N. observance marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.
Am Yisrael Chai devotes its efforts to Holocaust awareness and education.
Ferencz closed his remarks with a poignant thought: “I think that if we are to pay tribute to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, we have to see to it that they didn’t die in vain.”