Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) announced that their bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Benjamin Ferencz was included in the FY2023 omnibus funding package. Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, will receive the award in recognition of his work prosecuting Nazi war criminals, most notably the Einsatzgruppen, and his service in World War II. The bill previously passed the House in May and was introduced by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).
“I am honored to have secured the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to Benjamin Ferencz, a champion for human rights and the last living Nuremberg prosecutor,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As chief U.S. prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials, Mr. Ferencz held Nazi war criminals accountable for their crimes against humanity, and spent the many decades since then fighting for human rights, justice and peace. Mr. Ferencz’s life exemplifies what it means to dedicate oneself to compassion, empathy and righteousness. Few people have been more deserving of this tremendous honor.”
“I am honored to recognize Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the greatest honors an American can receive,” said Senator Schumer. “Mr. Ferencz, a Jewish immigrant who went on to serve our country in the Army, and honorably serve as a chief prosecutor for the U.S. in the Nuremberg trials, bravely held notorious Nazi war criminals to account. This award rightfully recognizes Mr. Ferencz for his fervor for justice and lifelong devotion to human rights and peace.”
“Ben Ferencz embodies the fight for justice and this honor is well deserved. His remarkable contributions to the Nurenberg tribunal’s prosecution of some of the 20th century’s most notorious war criminals have rightly been recognized by numerous organizations, including the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial, which continues its important work to give real meaning to the words ‘never again,’” said Senator Cardin. “Throughout his long life of accomplishments, Mr. Ferencz continued to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the oppressed. I was proud to join my colleagues in making this award a reality. The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting tribute to a life of purpose and service to humanity.”
“By awarding Ben Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress is sending an important message: that hate, bigotry, and antisemitism can never be tolerated. This message couldn’t come at a more important time with antisemitism and Holocaust denial on the rise,” said Rep. Frankel. “Mr. Ferencz is a hero of the Jewish community who has dedicated decades of his life to combatting antisemitism, prosecuting those who act on their hatred, and keeping the lessons of the Holocaust alive. It is a privilege to recognize his remarkable lifelong commitment to justice, peace, and human dignity with the Congressional Gold Medal—Congress’s highest expression of honor.”
Ben Ferencz immigrated to the United States from Hungary when he was ten months old and his family settled in New York City. Ferencz grew up in New York City and attended The City College of New York and Harvard Law School.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Ferencz joined an anti-aircraft artillery battalion preparing for the invasion of France. Ferencz was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1945 with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry. Soon after being discharged, he was recruited to work on the Nuremberg trials.
Ferencz, along with roughly 50 other researchers, examined Nazi offices and archives in Berlin, finding staggering evidence of genocide by the Nazis. Ferencz, in his first-ever case and aged 27, served as Chief Prosecutor for the United States in the Einsatzgruppen Case, in which commanders of SS mobile death squads faced charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Twenty-two defendants were charged, prosecuted, and convicted of murdering over a million people. Fourteen were sentenced to death.
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. The first Congressional Gold Medal was given to George Washington in 1776 and has been awarded just 184 times to our nation’s heroes, activists, scientists, and other important figures in our society.