Benjamin Ferencz, Champion of World Law, Leaves a Strong Heritage on Which to Build


René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

Benjamin Ferencz Chief Prosecutor Nuremberg

14 Apr 2023 – Benjamin Ferencz, champion of World Law and World Citizen, died on 7 April 2023 at the age of 103, leaving a strong heritage of action for world law.  He was particularly active in the creation of the International Criminal Court located in the Hague.

He was born in March 1920 in what is now Romania, close to the frontiers of Hungary and Ukraine.  In the troubled period after the end of the First World War, the parents of Ferencz who were Jewish decided to emigrate to New York with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.  They settled in New York City, and Ferencz changed his Yiddish name Berrel to Benjamin and studied in the New York school system. He did his undergraduate work at City College and then received a scholarship to Harvard Law School, a leading U.S. law school.

At the end of his law studies at Harvard, he was taken into the U.S. Army and in 1944, he was in Europe with the Army legal section, the Judge-Advocate General Corps.  By conviction and interest, he began to collect information on the Nazi concentration camps.  He was able to find photos, letters, and other material that he later was able to use as one of the prosecution team in the Nuremberg trials of Germans accused of war crimes.  He was also a staff member of the Joint Restitution Successor Organization concerned with the restoration or compensation of goods having belonged to Jewish families.  Thus, he developed close cooperation with the then recently created state of Israel.

From his experiences with the German trials and the many difficulties that the trials posed to be more than the justice of the victors and also the need not to antagonize the recently created Federal Republic of Germany, Ferencz became a strong advocate of an international legal system such as the Tribunals on Ex-Yugoslavia of 1993 and that of Rwanda (1994).  Much of his effort was directed to the creation of the International Criminal Court, a creation that owes much to efforts of non-governmental organizations, such as the Association of World Citizens.  It was during this effort for the creation of the International Criminal Court that we came into contact.

Benjamin Ferencz leaves a heritage on which we can build.  The development of world law is often slow and meets opposition.  However, the need is great, and strong efforts at both national and international levels continue.


(1) See Benjamin B. Ferenez. A Common Sense Guide to World Peace (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1985)


René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Apr 2023.

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One Response to “Benjamin Ferencz, Champion of World Law, Leaves a Strong Heritage on Which to Build”

  1. rosemerry says:

    I have read such a lot about Ferencz and long admired him and his work. What a pity this comment now seems, when we see the mockery made of this court by the latest development, the nonsensical dangerous charging of Mr Putin for “war crimes” when all the real war crimes of the West this century have never even been considered worth investigating.

    “He was particularly active in the creation of the International Criminal Court located in the Hague.”

    We also observe the International Court of Justice in The Hague, charging dozens of Black Africans for crimes but ignoring the real ones Kagame and Museveni who remain Western favorites.