Florida Gov. DeSantis honors last living prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials

Benjamin Ferencz, of Delray Beach, was awarded the Medal of Freedom Thursday afternoon

Benjamin Berell Ferencz receives the Florida governor's Medal of Freedom during a ceremony on Thursday in Boca Raton. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The last living prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials received a Medal of Honor from Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday afternoon at Florida Atlantic University.

DeSantis bestowed the medal onto 102-year-old Benjamin Ferencz, who still hasn’t stopped fighting for justice even after winning what many, including the Delray Beach prosecutor himself, consider the “biggest murder trial in human history.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor, Ferencz turned the audience’s attention toward the Russia-Ukraine war.

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“So, we see it still happening today—people see the pictures on television, running with their infant children, hospitals being bombed—and we have not yet learned the lesson from Nuremberg despite the fact that we laid it out clear and unmistakable,” Ferencz said. “What can we still do about it? Well, we can stop glorifying war making if we possibly can.”

Ferencz knows about war in more ways than one, living through WWII as both a decorated soldier in the army and a prosecutor during the war trials. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Ferencz enlisted in the army, landing on the beaches of Normandy and into Gen. George Patton’s headquarters to help take down Nazis.

“He was awarded five battle stars for his service (and) as Nazi concentration camps were discovered toward the end of the war, (Ferencz) was summoned to General Patton’s headquarters, where he investigated these war crimes,” DeSantis said. “When Ben would hear about a newly liberated concentration camp, he would jump into his army jeep, race to the camp and take command of documenting and saving evidence from destruction, particularly preserving evidence of Nazi crimes and their paperwork and documentation.”

After being honorably discharged from the army in 1945, he was tapped as the chief prosecutor for the U.S. in the Nuremberg trials—his first official case out of Harvard Law School—and ended up convicting and charging 22 defendants with the murder of over one million people.

“My hope was that we could create a more humane and peaceful world where no one would be killed or persecuted because of his race or his religion, or his political belief. And I made those arguments in my closing statements,” Ferencz said.

The former prosecutor and Romanian, then Transylvanian, native didn’t stop there.

“He later worked for several years as a private practicing attorney, but he then turned his attention to preserving the peace that he fought to bring about and he’s written more than a half a dozen books on his personal vision for the future,” DeSantis said.

Ferencz was honored alongside Holocaust survivors Samuel Ron and Norman Frajman, who were handed letters of gratitude before Ferencz accepted his award.

Recognized as two of the state’s oldest Holocaust survivors, 97-year-old Ron, from Boca Raton, and 92-year-old Frajman, from Boynton Beach, were praised for their “wonderful heroism and life of service,” DeSantis said.

And while Ferencz says he appreciates the award and recognitions, he noted the true reward lies in bringing an end to war.

“I appreciate very much this recognition... but we’ve got to have a change of heart and mind... And I still work all the time, and long hours, because I’m trying to change the way people think about the war,” he said.

About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.