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Nazi Crime Prosecutor Has Chilling Reminder Of The Effects Of War

Michael Minay

| Last updated 

Nazi Crime Prosecutor Has Chilling Reminder Of The Effects Of War

The last living Nuremberg trials prosecutor has delivered a chilling message about the horrors of the war.

The Nuremberg trials took place between 1945 and 1946 and featured judges from the Allied powers (United Kingdom, France, Soviet Union and United States) who proceeded over 22 major Nazi criminals. 12, as a result, were sentenced to death.

Ben Ferencz, now 97, was part of the team that brought a kind of justice against the people responsible for the murder of over one million people.

Ferencz prosecuted a part of the Nazi's known as Einsatzgruppen (action groups) that were tasked with following the German army on their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, killing any Jews, gypsies and Communists they encountered.


Ferencz, Romanian-born, moved to the US as a baby and was educated at Harvard Law School. For the Second World War, he was enlisted as a private in the US army and was later tasked with investigating the Nazi war crimes - finding the people responsible.

He was one of the first people on the scene at the newly-liberated concentration camps. Here he met a son whose father had died shortly before the camps were liberated.

A liberation of a concentration camp. Credit: PA


The son told him how his father had saved a small piece of bread for his child every day and kept it under his arm at night so other inmates would not steal it.

When investigating, his team discovered a bunch of secret documents which revealed the full brutality of the Nazi's, not only in concentration camps, but on their gunning down of Jews, gypsies and others.

He told CBS: "These were daily reports from the Eastern Front: which united entered which town, how many people they killed. It was classified; so many Jews, so many gypsies, so many others.

"They were 3,000 SS officers trained for the purpose, and directed to kill without pity or remorse, every single Jewish man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on."


He spoke of the phrases used by the Nazi's and how harrowing they were. They spoke of 'liquidating' Jews.

Despite only being 27, and never set foot in a courtroom before, Ferencz helped bring 22 officers to conviction. He told CBS he was aware the number of criminals was far higher, but the Nuremberg prosecutors were already overloaded.

Credit: PA


Reflecting on those involved from a Nazi perspective, Ferencz said: "They are not savages. But intelligent, patriotic human beings, and that war can make any normal person do horrifying things.

"Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage?" he asked.

He has a point. In 1963, psychologist Stanley Milgram ran the 'Behavioural Study Of Obedience'. His study saw a teacher issue instruct a student to subject electrical shocks to another person (who was not really wired up, and in on the experiment).


Stanley Milgram. Credit: Famous Psychologists

The results showed that the authoritative figure of the teacher influenced greatly the willingness of the student to administer the shocks - some enough to kill a person several times over.

Ferencz concluded by saying: "Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Nazi

Michael Minay
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