MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials, Benjamin Ferencz, has been nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal.
A bipartisan group of Florida House lawmakers has introduced a resolution aimed at awarding Ferencz, now 101 years old, the highest honor Congress can grant an individual, on the 86th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials.READ MORE: Record Warmth In South Florida And This Is What's Causing It
After World War II, Ferencz successfully prosecuted one of the world’s first convictions of crime against humanity of Nazi perpetrators. The Nuremberg Trials led to the conviction of 22 high-ranking former Nazi SS officials, responsible for the murders of more than a million people.
Ferencz, who currently lives in Delray Beach, graduated from Harvard Law School. His road to greatness began with witnessing the ugliest parts of humanity as a combat soldier, landing on the beaches of Normandy, then helping liberate Nazi death camps.
“What I saw was indescribable and absolutely unforgettable and I’m certainly traumatized by what I saw,” he said.
Dead bodies everywhere, the crematoriums, people groveling for food and even revenge as freed prisoners attacked Nazis.
“They caught one of the guards and were beating him, tied him to a gurney and put him in the crematorium and warmed him up,” he recalled.
Ferencz told CBS4 this left quite an impression. It was one he could never shake and fresh in his mind when, at only 27, he was chosen as the lead prosecutor in the first of the Nuremberg Trials, where Nazis and other criminals were put on trial for war crimes. Incredibly, it was the first trial Ferencz ever prosecuted.
“My first case was the biggest murder trial in human history,” he said.
His belief then, as it still is now, is that law is the only road to justice. So, he got to work collecting evidence, using the methodical records kept by the Nazis.READ MORE: Suspicious Person Call Leads To Police Activity In South Miami-Dade
“I took a little adding machine and I added them up,” he said. “And when I reached one-million deaths, I said that’s enough.”
The skilled prosecutor rested his case after only two days. Of the 22 defendants, 13 sentenced to death.
Using humanity as his lifelong compass, Ferencz said he wanted to speak to convicted Nazi Otto Ohlendorf after his sentence.
There was no remorse, Ferencz said, just a remark befitting the Nazi’s mouth it came from.
“He said, ‘You’ll see we were right,’” Ferencz recalled.
Another reminder of how horribly cruel people can be to each other, and just more fuel for Ferencz, who made it his life’s work to serve those oppressed through the power of the law.
In 2016, Ferencz invested in the future of genocide prevention with the creation of the Ferencz International Justice Initiative at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
“It’ll be up to the next generation to carry the torch. And I say if the torch falls from my hand, as it soon will, pick it up, run with it,” he said with tears. “If you can run, walk, crawl, but never let it go.”
Law not war is the motto that Ferencz has lived his life by and he says his work won’t be done until all disputes are settled only be peaceful means.MORE NEWS: Mistrial Declared In Dayonte Resiles Murder Trial After Juror Disagreed With Manslaughter Verdict
The resolution was sent to the U.S. House Financial Services and the Budget Committees.