Submitted by the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Ben Cardin recently introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, in recognition of his work prosecuting Nazi war criminals, most notably the Einsatzgruppen, and his service in World War II. The bill passed the House in May and was introduced by Representatives Lois Frankel, Joe Wilson, Ted Deutch, Gus Bilirakis, Jim McGovern, and Chris Smith.
Ben Ferencz immigrated to the United States from Hungary when he was ten months old and his family settled in New York City, where he grew up, 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, 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.