It was only a few weeks ago that a chief prosecutor from the infamous Nuremberg Trials turned 101.
Within a year of being born, Ben Ferencz and his family emigrated from the Carpathian Mountains to the United States due to rising antisemitism. Many if not most of the people from that region were not able to leave, either due to poverty, having an elderly person to take care of or due to their hopefulness that things would be alright.
My grandfather’s family likely fell into the first category; the Grossman family were so poor that they didn’t have enough shoes for all the children. As such, my grandfather ended up on the Auschwitz platform barefoot. Young Herman lost nearly all of his family on that day in 1944, and was brought to the brink of despair and hopelessness. Little did that young boy see the extent to which God was working behind the scenes to bring an end to the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” the Nazi plan to destroy all of Europe’s Jews.
Ben, in the meantime, was studying law at Harvard, slowly sowing the seeds for his future as a top Nazi prosecutor. Upon graduating, Ben was enlisted in the U.S. Army’s anti-aircraft artillery battalion. The more the American front fought, the more millions of skeletons, or what was left of them, they stumbled upon. With such gruesome discoveries in concentration camps and such, Ferencz was recruited to investigate those war crimes; crimes such as the world had never seen.
In fact, the origin of the legal term “crimes against humanity” was invented to address the scale of Nazi crimes, as beforehand there was no such term. Yet, even with this term it doesn’t scratch at the chamber surface at the horrors that went on. Thus, contemporaneously the term “Holocaust” is used to describe the Six Millions Jews across countries who vanished in the smoke of hate, torture, humiliation, cold-bloodedness, and degradation.
All in all it was the zeal to which the Nazis took to their crimes that dumbfounded the world, just as it did to Auschwitz arrivals. If you take a look at the faces of the infamous Auschwitz Album, you will notice that the looks of utmost horror were found upon the faces of those who saw the Nazi cameraman, who heard the “snap” of their picture being taken. They didn’t necessarily believe they were going to die, but the cameraman was a clue that their relief from their torturous journey by cattle car was a false sense of release. More terrors could await them, indeed it could even get worse.
As the artful photographer zealously captured pain, he also captured the psychopathy, the evil that lurked within that place. It was seemingly an endless vat. It was the den of Hades mixed with the spirits of angels who died as proud Jews.
While overseas Ferencz was instructed to compile evidence of war crimes. Thereafter, the young lawyer became a chief prosecutor in charging 24 leading S.S. Officers with crimes against humanity, among other crimes.
Specifically, Ben worked on the 9th Nuremberg trial called the “Einsatzgruppen Trial.” The Einsatzgruppen units were the mobile killing squads that went around Europe killing Jews and other “undesirables” in mass graves.
The charges at trial read the following: “in this case the defendants are not simply accused of planning or directing wholesale killings through channels. They are not charged with sitting in an office hundreds and thousands of miles away from the slaughter. It is asserted with particularity that these men were in the field actively superintending, controlling, directing, and taking an active part in the bloody harvest.”
Mind you, the people who shot babies into mass graves were not barbaric street men, these were highly educated men with PhD’s. Degrees don’t protect the soul, although Ben’s path shows that when used properly it can restore justice to the world.
As young Herman emerged out of the ashes of Auschwitz, out of the ashes the Nazis forced him to turn his people into every single day as a Sonderkomanndo prisoner, he was free physically.
Not only was he freed, because that would have been enough. He was able to witness the commencement of Nuremberg-justice. He was able to see the hand of God, to see how it smote Israel’s enemies when they tried to rise up and kill again three years after the Holocaust. He was able to see the birth of the State of Israel. He was able to see Eichmann exported to Israel in a clandestine operation by Mossad. He was able to see the Jewish people win back their holy city after thousands of years in 1967.
And indeed, the climax of the Holocaust was the Second Exodus. There can be no question. With God working behind the scenes, hardening the heart of the German pharaoh, causing him to make egregious Napoleonic mistakes against his own allies, He brought the Third Reich war machine to its knees before the world.
And in just one small example, He brought Mr. Ferecnz from Europe, to Harvard and then to Nuremberg to ensure, like the state of Israel, that a Jew would lead the justice against his people’s oppressors.