Benjamin Ferencz, Last Living Nuremberg Prosecutor Of Nazis, Dies At 103

[Screenshot/YouTube/USC Shoah Foundation]

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The last living prosecutor who tried Nazis for war crimes during the Nuremberg trials has died at the age of 103.

Benjamin Ferencz, a Harvard-educated lawyer who secured the convictions of multiple Nazi officials who perpetrated war crimes during World War II, passed away Friday at his home in Boynton Beach, Florida, according to St. John’s University law professor John Barrett. Barrett runs a blog about the Nuremberg trials known as “The Jackson List.” His death was also confirmed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

After graduating from Harvard University, Ferencz joined the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. After the war, Ferencz was named chief prosecutor for Nuremberg’s Einsatzgruppen trial at the mere age of 27 with no prior trial experience, CNN reported. Using evidence gathered from Nazi headquarters, Ferencz was able to secure convictions against 22 Nazi officials. Those officials were known to have commanded Hitler’s roaming extermination squads, who together killed an estimated one million people, the outlet reported.

During the trial, Ferencz referred to the crimes committed by the Nazis as “genocide,” credited as the first one to do so after the scope of Hitler’s atrocities was revealed. “So, here, the killing of defenseless civilians during a war may be a war crime, but the same killings are part of another crime, a graver one, if you will, genocide, or a crime against humanity. This is the distinction we make in our pleading. It is real and most significant,” he argued at the time, according to CNN.

Ferencz had a firsthand look at those atrocities after following up on U.S. intelligence reports about large groups of starving people in Nazi camps being watched by SS guards. Those reports led Ferencz to the Ohrdruf camp — the first Nazi concentration camp to be liberated by the U.S. Army — in Germany and also to Buchenwald — one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps — which left him “indelibly traumatized,” he wrote in an account of his life.

“I went on to investigate many concentration camps, and they were all basically similar: dead bodies strewn across the camp grounds, piles of skin and bones cadavers piled up like cordwood before the burning crematoria, helpless skeletons with diarrhea, dysentery, typhus, TB, pneumonia, and other ailments, retching in their louse ridden bunks or on the ground with only their pathetic eyes pleading for help,” Ferencz wrote of his experience.

“Few had enough strength to muster a smile of gratitude. My mind would not accept what my eyes saw. It built a protective barrier to enable me to go on with my work in what seemed an incredible nightmare. I had peered into Hell,” he continued.

Ferencz continued his work ensuring those who had committed war crimes would be held responsible by advocating for the creation of an international court that could prosecute any world leader for war crimes. His dedication and hard work was rewarded in 2002 with the establishment of the International Criminal Court in Dutch city of The Hague, the New York Post reported. (RELATED: Bangladeshi Tribunals Are Characterized By Vengeance, Not Justice)

Ferencz leaves behind his four children, a son and three daughters, the outlet reported.