Ferencz: Attacks on Iraq go against Nuremberg
America's pre-emptive and anticipatory strike on Iraq contradicted the precedents set at Nuremberg, said one of the prosecutors who participated in the post-World War II Nuremberg war crimes trials during a speech Thursday.
Ben Ferencz said nations should resolve international conflicts through diplomacy instead of force.
"You don't have to go out and start killing not only your adversary, but everybody near him," he said.
Before the speech, Ferencz interacted with the audience and asked students what they wanted him to talk about. He began the event by joking that he would solve all the problems in the world within a half hour.
Ferencz was born in Romania and fled in his youth to the United States to avoid persecution, according to Maggie Herman, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs who helped organize the event.
Ferencz said that while he attended Harvard Law School, he became on expert on war crimes and joined the U.S. Army when he graduated. He later landed at Normandy, crossed the Rhine River in Germany and eventually earned five battle stars.
Ferencz said he was there when troops freed the Dachau Nazi-run concentration camp and saw the prisoners, many of whom could not walk, chase the fleeing Schutzstaffel officers.
"Occasionally, those who were alert enough would catch an SS man, beat him up, burn him alive," he said.
Ferencz paused as he described what he saw and admitted he experiences flashbacks of the events when he talks about the details.
The military commissions at Dachau allowed the defendants to speak for themselves but found all of them guilty and later executed them. Ferencz said he considered the trials unfair and left the army as a result.
Ferencz said he did return to help with the Nuremberg trials. While he researched for the military tribunal, he found official documents that showed the Einsatzgruppen, a paramilitary group, murdered hundreds of thousands of people along the war's eastern front.
All 22 defendants Ferencz prosecuted in that case - his first - got convicted, he said.
Ferencz asked members of audience to decide what kind of world they want.
"It's up to the young people," he said. "I think we owe it to the memory of those who died to try and make this a more humane world."
Ferencz has done extensive work to promote the International Criminal Court, according to Herman.
In response to a question from an audience member about why the United States has not ratified the ICC, Ferencz said he thinks the country does not believe in the rule of law. He added that the United States has the power to attack at will as long as it gets the support of the public.
"To get the public's support, you have to frighten them," Ferencz said. "I learned that from [Nazi propaganda minister Joseph] Goebbels."
Ferencz said the United States should give prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba fair trials, but added that the best solution is to end war, because war always causes crime.
"War-making is the biggest atrocity of all," he said.