BOCA RATON, Fla. – After becoming the fourth recipient of the Florida governor’s Medal of Freedom on Thursday in Boca Raton, Benjamin Ferencz seized the opportunity to deliver a public statement about the Russia-Ukraine war.
The 102-year-old former prosecutor stood near Gov. Ron DeSantis and told the small crowd at the Florida Atlantic University conference room that it is up to the new generation to make sure that we no longer live in great danger.
“I am trying to change the way people think about war,” Ferencz said. “If they don’t think about it, their heart will not change either, so you have to think about it, and ask yourself, ‘Is this the way for human beings to behave?’”
Ferencz was an investigator of Nazi war crimes after World War II and the chief prosecutor for the U.S. Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trial during the Nuremberg Trials. He had 22 Nazi defendants convicted of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes.
“We see it still happening today. People see the pictures on television running with their infant children. Hospitals are being bombed and we have not yet learned the lesson from Nuremberg,” Ferencz said about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Ferencz is a survivor. He was 10 months old when he moved to New York from Transylvania, now Romania. He spoke Yiddish while growing up in New York’s Hells Kitchen. The Harvard Law School graduate served in the U.S. Army.
Ferencz survived the Battle of the Bulge during World War II before joining the War Crimes Branch. He was tasked with collecting evidence of the Holocaust. Nazi Germans and supporters killed some six million Jews across Europe.
“We can stop glorifying war-making ... the Constitution of the United Nations requires that all wars be settled by peaceful means only and then it’s ignored, so it’s up to the new generation ... they live in great danger now,” Ferencz said.
Investigators are documenting cases of war crimes in Russia-occupied Ukrainian territories including executions in Bucha, in the village of Staryi Bykiv, the village of Vorzel, sexual violence, and other violations.
“The names don’t count, if you call it Ukraine or you call it Russia, or whatever you call it. That shouldn’t be the determinant to justify you going out and killing a bunch of people that have nothing to do with anything, and that’s the current practice,” Ferencz said adding he wants people to remember these phrases: “Law not war” and “Never give up.”
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