Benjamin B. Ferencz

Interview conducted 7 November 2014 in Waltham, Massachusetts, by David P. Briand and Leigh Swigart.

benjamin ferencz seated on couchBackground

Interview Content

Benjamin Ferencz reminisces about Nazi war crimes research and evidence collection for the U.S. Army; the Einsatzgruppen trial; the Battle of Mogadishu/Black Hawk down in Somalia and the resulting U.S. reluctance to intervene early in the Balkan Wars; the early stages of negotiations for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the United Nations; and the international community's failure to act to prevent violence in Rwanda.

He discusses the campaign to have aggression recognized as a punishable crime under international criminal law; the rebranding of the crime of aggression as a crime against humanity; the necessity of permanent mechanisms to adjudicate international criminal law; the problem of the glorification of war-making; the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals and International Criminal Court as progress toward the rule of law; and the role of the religious community in preventing acts of aggression.

read full transcript of interview

Biographical Information

Benjamin B. Ferencz, the son of Hungarian Jews who fled Europe in the 1920s, studied law at Harvard University and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. At the age of 27, he was appointed chief prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen case, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials conducted in 1947-48. All 22 defendants, charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and membership in organizations declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal, were found guilty and executed.

Throughout his life, Ferencz has been a tireless advocate for international peace and justice. He has been a vocal supporter of the International Criminal Court and more recently a campaigner for the criminalization of the crime of aggression under international law.

A Conversation With Ferencz at Brandeis University

benjamin ferencz gives talk before packed audience

Following his interview for the Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, Professor Ferencz spoke to a packed crowd of students, faculty and guests at Brandeis University (47:40).