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Benjamin Ferencz

In this article, Annabel Tragen talks about her Zionist hero, Benjamin Ferencz.

Having been an FZY keeno since 2016, you would have thought that I would have selected my Zionist hero years ago. However, until recently, this was not the case and I had instead always resorted to jokingly choosing Ariella Basger as my hero when I stood up to speak during Veida. Now, having become a bogeret, I’ve chosen to replace Basger (soz pal) for a more inspirational and true Zionist hero.A 101 year old man called Benjamin Ferencz and his life story should be heard.


Benjamin Ferencz is a Jewish Romanian lawyer who grew up in the USA. Having graduated from Harvard Law School in 1943, Ferencz was then summoned to war, working in the anti-aircraft artillery battalion, ready to fight in France during WW2.

From there, under General Patton’s orders, he was transferred to the War Crimes Branch of the army and instructed to gather information about Nazi brutality to prepare for post-war Nazi trials. This vital role meant that Ferencz accompanied US army troops as they liberated concentration camps. When there, he seized documents and evidence against the Nazi’s that could be used in courts. He visited Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenbürg and Ebensee camps and he later described this experience “as if (he) peered into hell,” fuelling his determination to ensure the criminals were held accountable.


Ferencz left the army as soon as possible, moving to New York in 1945 to practice law. However, shortly after, he was recruited by the Nuremburg war crime trials where he was sent with around fifty researchers to Berlin to scour the Nazis’ offices and archives for more evidence. What Ferencz and his colleagues found led to “the biggest murder trial in history.” They uncovered a mass of detailed and precise evidence which named millions of Jewish men, women and children who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. Endless lists naming communists, homosexuals, Romani and disabled people, who suffered the same fate, were also found.


On returning to Nuremberg, he was given the daunting role of Chief Prosecutor in The Einsatzgruppen Case. This was his first ever case as a lawyer. A massive undertaking with huge responsibility to all he had witnessed. Aged only 27 years old, Ferencz ensured that all 22 defendants on trial were convicted of their murderous crimes. Thirteen were sentenced to death, more than in any other Nuremberg proceeding.


Since then, Ferencz has dedicated the rest of his life to studying and writing about peace and justice – “Law not War.” In 2002, Ferencz helped to establish the International Criminal Courts (ICC). He believes that it acts as a legacy of the Nuremberg trials and that its existence is vital in order to continue prosecuting those committing crimes against humanity. Since then, ICC have held 30 cases and works to ensure that countries are acting in a humane and just manner. Today, Benjamin Ferencz continues to write and speak worldwide for international law and global peace. There are documentaries made about him and his determination to shape international law. He has achieved so much, helping the world progress towards always finding justice. This is why he is my hero.


Annabel Tragen (She/Her)

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