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Bipartisan Bill to Award Last Living Nuremberg Prosecutor the Congressional Gold Medal Passes House, Advances to Senate

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Washington, May 10, 2022 | comments

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12), Jim McGovern (D-MA-02), and Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) released the following statement after their bipartisan bill to award Benjamin Ferencz—the last living Nuremberg prosecutor—a Congressional Gold Medal passed the House of Representatives.

“It is an honor to recognize the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, 102-year-old Benjamin Ferencz, with the Congressional Gold Medal—Congress’s highest expression of civilian appreciation. Mr. Ferencz’s lifelong commitment to justice, peace, and human dignity is an inspiration to all who value freedom and humanity,” said Rep. Frankel. “Now, the US Senate must get this bipartisan bill over the finish line so that we can give Mr. Ferencz the recognition he deserves.”

“Ben Ferencz is a true champion of human rights. Beginning with his time as an investigator in World War II and chief U.S. Army prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials, through his long, outstanding career as an advocate of international rule of law,” said Rep. Wilson. “Mr. Ferencz deserves our respect and appreciation. I am grateful to have co-led this bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal and for the passage of this bill today. Thank you for your lifelong dedication to justice and integrity.”

“The Nuremberg Trials, the first international war crimes tribunal in human history, was a monumental milestone for the international community—a step toward true accountability for those who committed crimes against humanity during World War II. Ben Ferencz, who spent more than 50 years prosecuting the most horrific war crimes, is a living embodiment of the Nuremberg legacy,” said Rep. Ted Deutch. “Mr. Ferencz’s lifetime of work carries particular significance today. At a time when there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors to share their experiences, Mr. Ferencz, the last remaining prosecutor from this tribunal, is a shining example to us all of the continued importance of speaking out, showing zero tolerance for war crimes, and ensuring what happened during the Holocaust never happens again. In honoring him, we commit to continuing his efforts.”

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Certainly Ben Ferencz, who has spent more than 50 years prosecuting war crimes and genocide, qualifies for this prestigious honor. Throughout history, humanity has encountered many faces of evil. Our brightest moments as an international community have been those in which we present a united front in our efforts to identify and eradicate its presence. Mr. Ferencz has been at the helm leading that important work, and I am humbled to help honor him,” said Rep. Bilirakis.

“Ben Ferencz has dedicated his life to standing up for human rights and justice,” said Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern. “As Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, I often hear how grave atrocities such as genocide happen because good people look the other way or fail to take action. Ben Ferencz has spent the last five decades ensuring that we do not look away—and that those who commit these heinous crimes are held accountable. Nuremberg is the model on how to investigate, how to interrogate, how to prosecute, and how to mete out justice. I am so proud that Congress came together in a bipartisan way to honor Mr. Ferencz with the Congressional Gold Medal. For ‘never again’ to mean ‘enough is enough,’ it is critically important for us to continue to honor and elevate the work of heroes like Mr. Ferencz.”

“ADL welcomes the passage of the Benjamin Berell Ferencz Congressional Gold Medal Act in the House. At just 27, Ferencz led the prosecution of members of the Einsatzgruppen (SS mobile death squads),” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “We call on the Senate to quickly follow suit and bestow Congress’ highest honor on the last living prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials.”

During World War II, Ferencz served in the U.S. Army and helped collect evidence of Nazi war crimes. After the war, he was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry and was awarded five battle stars for his service. Later, he was appointed Chief Prosecutor in the trial that convicted 22 former Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) officials for their roles in the murder of over a million people.

Over the course of his life, Ferencz has been a tireless advocate for the rule of law and international justice. This remarkable centenarian embodies the best of what the United States—and the American people—offer to the world.

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 179 times to our nation’s heroes, activists, scientists, and other important figures in our society.

H.R. 6015 passed the House by a voice vote. It now heads to the Senate, where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. The full text of the bill is available here.

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