Florida Reps Want to Honor Last Living Nuremberg Prosecutor With Congressional Gold Medal

Last week, led by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., members of the Florida congressional delegation championed a resolution to honor Benjamin Ferencz—the final surviving Nuremberg prosecutor–with the Congressional Gold Medal.

“During World War II, Ferencz served in the U.S. Army and helped collect evidence of Nazi war crimes. After the war, he was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry and was awarded five medals for his service. Later, he was appointed Chief Prosecutor in the trial that convicted 22 former Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) officials for their roles in the murder of over a million people,” Frankel’s office noted. “Over the course of his life, Ferencz has been a tireless advocate for the rule of law and international justice. This remarkable centenarian embodies the best of what the United States—and the American people—offer to the world.”

Frankel introduced the resolution which has the backing of more than 30 other U.S. House members including U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Chris Smith, R-NJ, and Joe Wilson. Other backers include U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., Kathy Castor, D-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., and Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

“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. “He is a treasure to the Palm Beach County and hero to our global Jewish community, and it is an honor to be introducing a bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal. 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.”

“Ben Ferencz is a true champion of human rights. Beginning with his time as an investigator in World War II and chief U.S. Army prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials, through his long, outstanding career as an advocate of the international rule of law. Mr. Ferencz deserves our respect and appreciation. The Congressional Gold Medal would be a fitting honor and I’m grateful to co-lead this bill. Thank you for all you have done in the name of global justice,” said Joe Wilson.

“At a time when national surveys show more and more young Americans know less and less about the Holocaust, as anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise, and as we lose the last generation of first-hand witnesses of the horrors of World War II, I can think of no better individual to receive this honor and no better moment for him to receive it,” said Deutch. “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.”

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Certainly, Ben Ferencz, who has spent more than 50 years prosecuting war crimes and genocide, qualifies for this prestigious honor. 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. In one instance, he secured justice for 20 SS officers responsible for killing more than one million people in towns and villages across Eastern Europe. These officers never would have been brought to justice if it weren’t for his efforts. Throughout history, humanity has encountered many faces of evil. Our brightest moments as an international community have been those in which we present a united front in our efforts to identify and eradicate its presence. Mr. Ferencz has been at the helm leading that important work, and I am humbled to honor him,” said Bilirakis.

“Ben Ferencz has dedicated his life to standing up for human rights and justice,” said McGovern. “As co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, I often hear how grave atrocities such as genocide happen because good people look the other way or fail to take action. Ben Ferencz has spent the last five decades ensuring that we do not look away—and that those who commit these heinous crimes are held accountable. Nuremberg is the model on how to investigate, how to interrogate, how to prosecute, and how to mete out justice. I am proud to introduce legislation alongside Representatives Frankel, Wilson, Deutch, Bilirakis, and Smith to honor Mr. Ferencz with the Congressional Gold Medal, and I urge our colleagues to join us on this important bill. For ‘never again’ to mean ‘enough is enough,’ we need to honor and elevate the work of heroes like Mr. Ferencz who have done so much in the name of human rights and global justice.”

“As part of the effective prosecutorial team at the Nuremberg Trials, Benjamin Ferencz helped ensure that those who committed unspeakable heinous crimes in Nazi Germany were held to account,” said Smith. “His remarkable work to expose the truth of the Holocaust helped build the foundation on which we continue to fight anti-Semitism in all of its ugly pernicious forms.”

The resolution was sent to the U.S. House Financial Services and the Budget Committees.

Kevin Derby
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