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Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor of Nazis at Nuremberg, dies at 103

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(JTA) — Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving member of the prosecuting team at the Nuremberg trials that convicted Nazi ringleaders for crimes against humanity, died Friday evening in Florida. He was 103.

Ferencz was 27 and a graduate of Harvard Law School when he was named as the chief prosecutor at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, in which 20 members of the SS’s mobile death squads were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Two others were convicted of membership in a criminal organization. 

Slight and boyish looking, he is seen in newsreel footage of the trials speaking deliberately and passionately in an accent shaped by his upbringing in Manhattan. “Vengeance is not our goal, nor do we seek merely a just retribution,” he tells the tribunal. “We ask this court to affirm by international penal action, man’s right to live in peace and dignity, regardless of his race or creed. The case we present is a plea of humanity to law.”

Ferencz would go on to play a key role on the team that negotiated the watershed 1952 reparations agreements under which West Germany agreed to pay $822 million to the State of Israel and to groups representing Holocaust survivors. Ferencz was featured in two recent documentaries about the Holocaust and its aftermath: Ken Burns’ PBS series, “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” and “Reckonings: The First Reparations,” a 2022 film funded by the German government with support by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. 

In a statement about the latter film and his role in the reparations negotiations, Ferencz said: “At the time, we were just trying to do what was right. Looking back, I can see that it was this work, the legal work of negotiating agreements and finding justice, that led to peace. It is the indemnification that allowed both Israel and Germany to find a peaceful path forward and rebuild themselves on the world stage.”

In December 2022, the U.S. Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest honor, thanks to lobbying by six House members led by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Florida).

“Ben Ferencz was a giant,” said Menachem Rosensaft, the general counsel and associate executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, in a statement. “He devoted himself to the very end of his long and distinguished career to making sure that the lessons of Nuremberg would become engrained in both international law and the consciousness of society as a whole. He was also a fierce and tireless champion of providing at least a modicum of justice to Holocaust survivors.”

Born in Transylvania in 1920, Ferencz immigrated to the United States with his Jewish family as an infant. They settled in Manhattan, where he attended City College of New York and law school at Harvard. He joined the U.S. Army after graduation, where he was eventually assigned to the headquarters of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army and a team tasked with collecting evidence for war crimes. At Buchenwald, he once recalled, “I saw crematoria still going. The bodies starved, lying dying, on the ground. I’ve seen the horrors of war more than can be adequately described.

Ferencz was a civilian by the time he led the team at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the “Subsequent” Nuremberg proceedings that followed the 1945-1946 International Military Tribunal. The Subsequent trials, held between 1946 and 1949, were held by U.S. military courts and dealt with cases of crimes against humanity, the use of slave labor and atrocities against prisoners of war and partisans. Of all the cases brought against Nazis, the Einsatzgruppen Trial, which lasted from September 1947 until April 1948, was the only one to have Holocaust crimes as its major focus.

In 2012, Benjamin Ferencz poses in Courtroom 600 of the Palace of Justice, where the Nuremberg Trials were held 65 years earlier. (Adam Jones/Wikipedia)

After the trials Ferencz became director-general of the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization and fought for compensation for victims and survivors of the Holocaust and the return of stolen assets. He entered private law practice, and later worked for the institution of the International Criminal Court, which was established in 2002. He was fiercely critical of the decision by the United States not to ratify the treaty that established the court. “War-making itself is the supreme international crime against humanity and … it should be deterred by punishment universally, wherever and whenever offenders are apprehended,” he wrote in 2018.

From 1985 to 1996, he was an adjunct professor of international law at Pace University in Manhattan. He eventually retired to South Florida, but remained vocal in his opposition to war. 

Ferencz is survived by a son and three daughters. His wife Gertude died in 2019.

In 2017, the Municipality of The Hague honored Ferencz for his achievements by naming the footpath adjacent to the Peace Palace after him. That same year, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide launched the Ferencz International Justice Initiative.


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Obituaries

PHYLLIS POLLOCK

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary

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By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre


Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station

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This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.


The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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