• Synopsis: “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz”

    Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz

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    Armenia, the Holocaust, Uganda, Cambodia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Myanmar. The list of atrocities against humanity in our time is tragically long, and incomprehensible.

    Barry Avrich’s gripping documentary PROSECUTING EVIL: THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD OF BEN FERENCZ tells the fascinating story of one man’s lifelong quest for justice for victims of crimes against humanity – a concept Ferencz was instrumental in developing after The Nuremberg Trials post-World War II.

    A true visionary, a key architect of the international war crimes system and passionate advocate for peace, Ben Ferencz has lived a remarkable life. At 98 years old, the last living lead prosecutor at The Nuremberg Trials remains an active and unstoppable force for justice in an unjust world. He’s witnessed and influenced the most consequential chapters of the last 70 years – from liberating war camps and investigating Nazi war crimes, to acting, at 27 years old, as the Chief Prosecutor for the U.S. Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trials at Nuremberg and successfully advocating for the establishment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Through it all he’s never wavered in his vision of a world that finds peace through the force of law, not the force of war.

    There’s nothing in Ben Ferencz’s earliest years to suggest the trajectory his life would take, and the history he would make. The son of Romanian immigrants fleeing anti-Semitism for New York City, Ferencz was born in 1920, and his small stature and poor English delayed his education. Nonetheless, he won a scholarship to Harvard Law School.

    Ferencz joined the U.S. Army serving in the 115th AAA Gun Battalion. In 1945, he was transferred to the headquarters of General Patton’s Third Army, and tasked with setting up a war crimes branch and collecting evidence. In this function, he was sent to the concentration camps as they were liberated by the U.S. Army. His assignment was to collect all the evidence of the crimes for future trials. The first camp he hit was Buchenwald. What he saw traumatized him for the rest of his life and fueled his desire to see a world in which those responsible for crimes against humanity are held to account. He gathered enough incriminating evidence to prosecute 22 Einsatzgruppen Nazis, responsible for murdering over a million people – a trial of which he was the lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Called the biggest murder trial in history, Ferencz was only 27 years old, and it was his first case.

    After the trials, Ferencz went on to advocate for restitution for Jewish victims of the Holocaust and later the establishment of the International Criminal Court. He also published several books on this subject. Already in his first book published in 1975, entitled Defining International Aggression-The Search for World Peace, he argued for the establishment of such an international court. In 2009, Ferencz was awarded the Erasmus Prize, the award is given to individuals or institutions that have made notable contributions to European culture, society, or social science. In April 2017, the municipality of The Hague announced that the city will honor Benjamin Ferencz by naming the footpath next to the Peace Palace after him as “one of the figureheads of international justice”.

    PROSECUTING EVIL includes a treasure trove of archival footage and photos that bring Ferencz’s world to life. The film was shot in Toronto, New York City, Nuremberg, The Hague, Delray Beach Florida, Chicago and Ottawa. It features interviews with top minds working in the fields of human and civil rights and international justice including Alan Dershowitz, Justice Rosalie Abella, General Wesley Clark (Ret.), David Scheffer, first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues; Richard Dicker, Director, Human Rights Watch International Justice Program; Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court and Don Ferencz who has followed in his father’s footsteps as an attorney and international justice educator.

    Ferencz’s relentless vision, and his message in PROSECUTING EVIL is that there is little sense in denouncing aggression, terrorism, and other crimes against humanity unless these offenses became part of an accepted international criminal code enforced by an international court that delivers a structure for peace. Ferencz believes that if law trumps war, you could change the world. His mantra remains “Law not war”

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