Benjamin Ferencz: A Living Legend


On International Criminal Justice Day, we would like to pay special tribute to the great Benjamin Ferencz who celebrated his 100th birthday on 11 March of this year. Today, Mr. Ferencz is the last living prosecutor of the famous Nuremberg Trials. In recent years, we have been fortunate to have, Mr. Ferencz, a lifelong advocate for the international rule of law and the creation of a international criminal court, visit the Peace Palace on two occasions.

Three years ago, the Municipality of The Hague honored him for his achievements by naming a public footpath, adjacent to the Peace Palace, after him. A special unveiling ceremony was organized where a group of Dutch elementary schoolchildren from the Duinoord School assisted him in unveiling the typical blue and white street board. Afterwards, the ceremony moved to the Historic Reading Room of the Peace Palace Library where Mr. Ferencz spoke to the children about the lessons he learned from his war experience and days as a prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials.

One year later, on May 27th 2018, we had the pleasure of meeting Benjamin Ferencz again when his family’s foundation, the Planethood Foundation, presented the City of The Hague with a beautiful wooden bench overlooking the Peace Palace. This time the ceremony was carefully planned by his son Donald Ferencz and a small team from the Peace Palace Library. The long wooden bench, situated on the side of the Carnegielaan in front of the iron gate, curves elegantly and treats its sitters to a spectacular view of the Peace Palace.

‘The Ferencz Bench’ as it was quickly dubbed is inscribed with his life’s mantra‘ Law, Not War!

Law, not war” remains my slogan and my hope, explained Mr. Ferencz. ‘Consider the proposition that law, not war, should be your guide. If you could do that, those three words—law, not war—will save billions of dollars every day, not to say how many millions of lives will be saved. How can you do that? I will give you three more words and three sentences: Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!’

Earlier this year, we learned that Mr. Ferencz will be publishing a new book titled ‘Parting Words: 9 Lessons for a Remarkable Life’. He explained that ‘as a combat soldier and a war crimes investigator, I witnessed unimaginable horrors. The greatest thing I learned was that war can turn otherwise normal people into mass murderers. My slogan, ‘Law Not War’, points the way to a more humane and peaceful world, and I hope that readers will want to engage with this most of all once they’ve read the book’.

Without a doubt, many people will take a great deal of inspiration from this upcoming book. Upon reaching his 100th year, we wish Mr. Ferencz good health and happiness and hope his incredible optimism and enthusiasm will remain unbroken.