MIAMI (CBSMiami) – You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger legal victory than that of former prosecutor Ben Ferencz in Nuremberg, Germany in 1947.READ MORE: Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission Focused On Broward's Troubled 911 Communication System
He is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials – a series of 13 trials, from 1945 to 1949, meant to bring Nazi war criminals to justice after the Holocaust.
“I convicted 22 defendants of murdering over a million people in cold blood. I rested my case in two days, convicted all of them. Never match that record,” said Ferencz.
At 27, the Harvard Law grad turned soldier was plucked from the front lines and made lead prosecutor in what is considered the biggest murder trial in history.
CBS4’s Rick Folbaum sat down with him.
“How did you get the assignment,” asked Folbaum.
“If I give you a truthful answer, nobody will ever believe it,” said Ferencz.
Once the U.S. government decided to pursue war crimes charges against the Nazis, officials approached a Harvard Law professor to ask advice on how to do it. The professor remembered a former student, Ben Ferencz, who’d written a paper on war crimes. He urged the government to track Ferencz down. They did and it changed his life forever.
“My assignment was to get into the camps as soon as they were liberated, collect evidence of the crimes, find out the records of what happened in the camps, who did it, who was responsible,” said Ferencz.
He saw the bodies stacked like firewood. He saw the crematoriums and the gas chambers. He saw hell.
“I was there, and I saw it happening and I’m not the only one. Every survivor saw it happening. That’s a historical record that doesn’t just disappear. It’s unbelievable, indescribable, inconceivable, but it’s true and it certainly had a traumatic impact on me,” says Ferencz, with tears in his eyes nearly 70 years later.
Nuremberg was his very first trial.
“It’s amazing to me that you would walk into that courtroom, with the weight of the world on your shoulders. Surely you knew the importance,” said Folbaum.
“I used to be 7-feet-tall. I shrunk down,” said Ferencz.READ MORE: Small Plane Crash In Miramar Sends Two People To The Hospital
Small in stature, but a giant in every other way, Ferencz, is now a part-time South Florida resident. When he’s not in Delray Beach, he’s traveling the world teaching, lecturing, lobbying on behalf of his single greatest cause.
“I have a solution – three words – law not war,” said Ferencz, “I think the world is capable of reaching adequate compromises through the rule of law to end this madness to which we are going through all over the world still today.”
Ferencz has been preaching compromise over killing for over half a century.
“I thought the best thing I could do, my kids were already finished with school, were taken care of, what can I do to prevent another Holocaust and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Ferencz.
“Quite a mission,” said Folbaum.
“Yeah, it keeps me very busy,” said Ferencz.
“How do you maintain a sense of hope and optimism,” asked Folbaum.
“I have no choice. If you’re crying on the inside, you better be laughing on the outside and you better believe it’s possible to change and I do believe it’s possible to change, not quickly, not easily, not immediately but if you have no hope, then the world is lost. Hope is the engine that drives human endeavor,” said Ferencz.
And it drives Ferencz, who at 96-year-old says his work is not done. He is definitely not your typical snowbird.
“I feel isolated here, like some old person who’s going out to rest on his laurels in the sunshine. Those people who have earned their rest shall enjoy their rest. I haven’t come to that stage yet. Maybe when I get older, I’ll feel the same way,” said Ferencz.
And he’s not much for talk about his legacy either.
“I don’t care about my legacy. I care about myself and knowing that I did the best I could to change things, and that’s all I care about.”
Ferencz recently made a one million dollar donation to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. His donation will be renewed every year for the next ten years.MORE NEWS: Search Resumes For Missing 19-Year-Old Miya Marcano After Person Of Interest Found Dead