The question Ben Ferencz would like to ask every single person – lawyer and laypeople alike -- at the end of every day is this: what did you do to improve the lives of mankind today?
For the 100-year-old former Nuremberg prosecutor, the answer would take far longer than the 1 hour 23 minute running time of Netflix's "Prosecuting Evil," the documentary about Ferencz, or the 72-minute lecture he gave to Miami Law students and the community recently, marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
The Cardozo Legal Jewish Society sponsored the event, “Prosecuting Evil: A Conversation with Ben Ferencz, The Last Surviving Nuremberg Trial Prosecutor;” Professor Bernard Oxman, Miami Law’s Richard A. Hausler Professor of Law, was the moderator.
"Let your humanity be your goal and your guide," Ferencz said.
From almost the time he and his family fled Jewish persecution from Romanian-occupied Hungry in 1920 to his January 2020 opinion piece in The New York Times on the violation of international law in the killing of General Sulimali, Ferencz has done little else than work tirelessly to improve humanity.
Ferencz so firmly believes that the rule of law should always trump war, and he has staked his entire life on pushing for it to be so.
The tiny lawyer, only his head and shoulders visible over the podium, admonished the standing room only crowd of Miami Law students to change the world, every day and in every way.
“There is a lot to be still fighting for, and I won't be here forever, but I'll keep fighting every day,” the 1943 Harvard Law grad said. "Never give up, never give up, never give up."
Ferencz was just 27 years old at the start of the trials, where he tried the top leadership of the Einsatzgruppen, a division of police and SS intelligence officers responsible for clearing newly seized territory by murdering Jews and other potential civilian enemies of German rule. Called "the Holocaust by bullets," the Einsatzgruppen were responsible for the deaths of more than one-third of the Jewish Holocaust victims.
He won all 24 cases at Nuremberg, resulting in 14 death sentences and two life sentences. He had visited many of the death camps as a military investigator, and seen and smelled the horror first-hand, saying he found the enormity of it at the time "incomprehensible."
“I knew at the beginning, for this trial to have any significance at all," he said, "it had to set a model of what you should and shouldn’t do."
Later Ferenz became instrumental in the formation of the international rule of law and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, though the effort took until 1998 diplomatically as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and entered into force in 2002. The Rome statute established international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
Ferencz gave the closing statement in the first prosecution in 2009 by the ICC in the case against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who was convicted by the court of the forcible conscription of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The event was also co-sponsored by LAFAC, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, StandWithUs, The Zionist Organization of America, The Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, and The George Feldenkries Program in Judaic Studies.