Bill to Award Congressional
Gold Medal to Benjamin Ferencz
Benjamin Ferencz. Photo credit- Adam Jones, Ph.D/ Global Photo Archive/Wikomedia Commons
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) recently introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, in recognition of his work prosecuting Nazi war criminals, most notably the Einsatzgruppen, and his service in World War II. The bill passed the House in May and was introduced by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).
“I am honored to introduce this bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Benjamin Ferencz, a champion for human rights and the last living Nuremberg prosecutor,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As chief U.S. prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials, Mr. Ferencz held Nazi war criminals accountable for their crimes against humanity, and subsequently spent his life fighting for human rights, justice and peace. Mr. Ferencz’s life demonstrates what it means to dedicate oneself to compassion, empathy and righteousness. Few people have been more deserving of this honor, and I am hopeful that the Senate can swiftly pass this important bill.”
“I am proud to support and introduce this legislation to award Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, with one of the greatest honors an American can receive, the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Senator Schumer. “Mr. Ferencz, a Jewish immigrant who went on to serve our country in the Army, and honorably serve as a chief prosecutor for the U.S. in the Nuremberg trials, bravely held notorious Nazi war criminals to account. I urge my Senate colleagues to pass this bill expeditiously to recognize Mr. Ferencz for his fervor for justice and lifelong devotion to human rights and peace.”
“Ben Ferencz embodies the fight for justice. His remarkable contributions to the Nurenberg tribunal’s prosecution of some of the 20th century’s most notorious war criminals have rightly been recognized by numerous organizations, including the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial, which continues its important work to give real meaning to the words ‘never again,’” said Senator Cardin. “Throughout his long life of accomplishments, Mr. Ferencz continued to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the oppressed. I’m proud to join my colleagues in sponsoring the Congressional Gold Medal for Ben Ferencz. It is a fitting tribute to a life of purpose and service to humanity.”
Ben Ferencz immigrated to the United States from Hungary when he was ten months old and his family settled in New York City. Ferencz grew up in New York City and attended The City College of New York and Harvard Law School.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Ferencz joined an anti-aircraft artillery battalion preparing for the invasion of France. Ferencz was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1945 with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry. Soon after being discharged, he was recruited to work on the Nuremberg trials.
Ferencz, along with roughly 50 other researchers, examined Nazi offices and archives in Berlin, finding staggering evidence of genocide by the Nazis. Ferencz, in his first-ever case and aged 27, served as Chief Prosecutor for the United States in the Einsatzgruppen Case, in which commanders of SS mobile death squads faced charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Twenty-two defendants were charged, prosecuted, and convicted of murdering over a million people. Fourteen were sentenced to death.
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. The first Congressional Gold Medal was given to George Washington in 1776 and has been awarded just 184 times to our nation’s heroes, activists, scientists, and other important figures in our society.