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Joined by members of the Bayberry neighborhood association, students from New Rochelle High School, community partners and state and local elected officials, the City of New Rochelle honored the legacy of longtime resident Benjamin B. Ferencz with an honorary street naming on Thursday, May 19 at the corner of Bayberry Lane and High Ridge Road.
In December 2021, the New Rochelle City Council voted unanimously to honor the accomplishments of Mr. Ferencz, a resident for over six decades whose international stature began in 1945 with his appointment as Chief Prosecutor for the United States in The Einsatzgruppen Case- one of the subsequent Nuremberg trials- and continues through today with his advocacy for international law and global peace (see bio below). Most recently, Mr. Ferencz has voiced his support for Ukraine and joined with others in advocating for the creation of a special tribunal for the punishment of the crime of aggressions against that nation. The Bayberry street naming was championed by Deputy Mayor and District 5 Council Member Sara Kaye and former District 5 Council Member Barry Fertel. “Sadly, the evils that Nuremberg sought to correct are still with us today, anti-Semitic incidents and other hate crimes are on the rise in our nation and just this past week in New York State,” said Deputy Mayor Sara Kaye, “but Ben Ferencz is an illustrious example of the continued importance of speaking out. He has never stopped pushing his message of ‘law, not war’. And he’s still at it, at the age of 102.”
“As the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, Ben Ferencz bears invaluable witness to one of history’s greatest acts of justice and redemption,” said Mayor Noam Bramson. “And yet Ben’s service to peace, human rights and international law, did not end in Nuremberg, but merely began. Throughout his long and fruitful career across the span of decades and continuing today, Ben has been a champion for the institutions and principles that make a just world. We in New Rochelle have been privileged to live side by side with such a towering figure and to draw inspiration from his example.”
New Rochelle High School teachers Mrs. Saglibene and Mr. Dower incorporated Mr. Ferencz’s life’s work into their respective curriculums for Political Issues through Film and Facing History. Seniors Carys Nardozzi, Skylar Morais-Cruz, Jeycof Carrion, Navid Torres and Diego Mungia attended the event with Department Chair Gustavo Barbosa, and read essays detailing the impact Mr. Ferencz’ life experiences had on each of them.
“We continue to be awed by the fact that this man from New Rochelle was in the room at the Nuremberg Trials and prosecuted dozens of Nazi commanders.” Mr. Dower explained. “Working together, Ms. Saglibene and I were able to reinforce the power of living history. This was a great way for our students to understand the strong connection between New Rochelle and a major international event. Interacting with Mr. Ferencz was an unmissable opportunity for our students.”
Watch the ceremony
Benjamin B. Ferencz immigrated to America from the Carpathian Mountains in 1920, and from a young age felt a deep yearning for universal friendship and world peace. He graduated from City College in 1940 and from Harvard Law School in 1943, and enlisted to serve in World War II under General Patton, fighting in most of the major campaigns in Europe. As Nazi atrocities were uncovered, he was transferred to a War Crimes Branch of the Army to gather evidence of Nazi brutality and apprehend the criminals.
After an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 1945, Ferencz was recruited as a lawyer for the Nuremberg war crimes trials, traveling with a team of 50 researchers to Berlin to scour Nazi offices and archives. At age 27, he became Chief Prosecutor for the United States in The Einsatzgruppen Case, which the Associated Press called “the biggest murder trial in history”, leading to the conviction of all twenty-two defendants charged with murdering over a million people. He continued his work in law until 1970, when after careful deliberation decided to withdraw from private practice and dedicate himself to studying and writing about world peace.
Ferencz’s first book Defining International Aggression-The Search for World Peace was published in 1975, followed by another two-volume documentary history, An International Criminal Court-A Step Toward World Peace, intended as a tool that nations could use to build a structure for peace. In 1983 another two-volume book, Enforcing International Law-A Way to World Peace, was published; and in order to spread the word to a larger audience, subsequently published a condensed paperback, A Common Sense Guide to World Peace, the title influenced by patriot and New Rochellean Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet Common Sense had inspired the American Revolution. In 1988 Ferencz wrote Planethood with Ken Keyes, Jr. to offer practical steps for the average citizen to take to help establish international law and urge U.N. reform.
In the 1990’s Ferencz asserted the need for an ICC- international criminal court- to replace “rule of force with the rule of law”, and continues to be active making available his expertise on current efforts to define aggression, and writing and speaking worldwide for international law and global peace at the age of 102.