Bipartisan Lawmakers Seek to Honor Last Living Nuremberg Prosecutor With Congressional Gold Medal

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Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor, was also member of the Jewish Claims Commission that signed a reparations deal with Germany in this 1952 photo.
Last surviving Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz (right) pictured in 1952 as a member of the Jewish Claims Commission at the signing of a German reparations deal. Credit: AP

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation aimed at awarding Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, a Congressional Gold Medal on the 86th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials.

Reps. Lois Frankel, Joe Wilson, Ted Deutch, Gus Bilirakis, Jim McGovern and Chris Smith are seeking to grant the 101-year-old Ferencz with the highest honor Congress can grant an individual, thanks to his work collecting evidence of Nazi war crimes and leading the prosecution in the infamous trial that led to the conviction of 22 former Nazi SS officials. McGovern, the co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, described Ferencz's work at Nuremberg as "the model on how to investigate, how to interrogate, how to prosecute, and how to mete out justice."

In the decades since the historic trials, Ferencz has dedicated his life to international rule of law and justice. "He has spent his entire, distinguished career pursuing justice for victims of horrific, unthinkable crimes against humanity. And he has succeeded, over and over again," Bilirakis said.

Some of the accused in the dock at the Nuremberg trials.Credit: U.S. Government / Wikimedia Commons

Frankel, the lead sponsor of the bill, represents Ferencz's home district in Palm Beach County, Florida. “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. “It’s my hope that this award reminds us all of the importance of always taking a stand and doing the right thing, and helps us keep the horrors of the Holocaust from fading from our collective memory.”

Deutch noted the rise in antisemitism and growing lack of awareness about the Holocaust for why the current moment is appropriate to honor Ferencz. "The words ‘never again’ do not simply mean learning the facts of what happened. 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.”

Elie Wiesel received the medal in 1984 for his work in documenting and preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and Raoul Wallenberg was posthumously granted the medal in 2012 for his work saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Two-thirds of the lawmakers in both the House and Senate need to co-sponsor the legislation before Ferencz can be awarded the medal.

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