A group of U.S. House representatives led by Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday to award 101-year old Benjamin Ferencz – the last living Nuremberg prosecutor – with a Congressional Gold Medal on the 86th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials.
Ferencz is being recognized with Congress’s highest civilian honor for his lifelong advocacy for the rule of law and international justice, and for embodying “the best of what the United States – and the American people – offer to the world.”
“Certainly Ben Ferencz, who has spent more than 50 years prosecuting war crimes and genocide, qualifies for this prestigious honor,” said Bilirakis, who introduced the bill with Lois Frankel (D-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Jim McGovern (D-MA). “He has spent his entire, distinguished career pursuing justice for victims of horrific, unthinkable crimes against humanity.”
Ferencz notably brought to justice 20 SS officers responsible for the murders of over one million people in Eastern Europe, Bilirakis added.
“These officers never would have been brought to justice if it weren’t for his efforts,” Bilirakis said. “Throughout history, humanity has encountered many faces of evil. Our brightest moments as an international community have been those in which we present a united front in our efforts to identify and eradicate its presence. Mr. Ferencz has been at the helm leading that important work, and I am humbled to honor him.”
During World War II, Ferencz served in the U.S. military, helping to compile evidence of Nazi war crimes. After an honorable discharge with the rank of sergeant of infantry, he was honored with five service medals.
“From his military service during World War II, to his role as chief prosecutor in a trial that brought 22 Nazi officials to justice, Ben Ferencz has led a remarkable life dedicated to the pursuit of justice,” said Frankel. “He is a treasure to the Palm Beach County and hero to our global Jewish community, and it is an honor to be introducing a bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.”
Wilson described Ferencz as a “true champion of human rights.”
“Beginning with his time as an investigator in World War II and chief U.S. Army prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials, through his long, outstanding career as an advocate of the international rule of law. Mr. Ferencz deserves our respect and appreciation,” Wilson said. “The Congressional Gold Medal would be a fitting honor and I’m grateful to co-lead this bill. Thank you for all you have done in the name of global justice.”
Deutsch added that in an era when surveys show that fewer young American are knowledgeable about the Holocaust, and with rising anti-Semitism and the passing of the last generation of eye witnesses to the atrocities of World War Ii, it is deeply important to honor Ferencz, with “no better moment for him to receive it.”
“The words ‘never again’ do not simply mean learning the facts of what happened,” Deutsche said. “They require each of us to take action to prevent other atrocities, and Ben Ferencz’s lifetime of remarkable achievement shows his dedication to that work. As the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, and a man who spent more than 50 years prosecuting the most horrific war crimes, Mr. Ferencz embodies the idea that while the work is not ours to finish, neither is it ours to neglect. His work has left a shining legacy for the next generation, and in honoring him, we commit to continuing his efforts.”