In Memoriam: Benjamin B. Ferencz

April 12, 2023
Benjamin B. Ferencz


Benjamin B. Ferencz
1920 - 2023

The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University mourns the passing of Benjamin B. Ferencz, a life-long, legendary advocate for human rights and the rule of law, who served as Adjunct Professor of Law from 1985 to 1996.

Ben passed away at the age of 103 and was the last surviving prosecutor of 1947’s historic Nuremberg trials. A Harvard Law graduate and U.S. Army veteran, he devoted his career to creating an international system of justice that protects every person's right to live in peace and with dignity. As a war crimes investigator and a Nuremberg prosecutor, he was immersed in the horror of Nazi crimes. He became convinced that the world can prevent such atrocities only by outlawing and systematically punishing aggressive war and acts such as genocide and crimes against humanity. 

As a member of our faculty for more than a decade, our students benefiting from his great intelligence, his world experiences, and his heroic spirit. During his time at the Law School, he taught classes in international law, humanitarian law, with a focus on world peace, among nations and peoples. He also published several books focused on peace themes, and later returned as the 1997 Blaine Sloan Lecturer on International Law. He was an inspiration to a generation of our students, many of whom entered the field of international humanitarian law – a field that he helped to establish. Two of his children, Donald Ferencz ’83 and Nina Dale ’87, graduated from the Law School, following in his footsteps. He and his son Don were also supporters of the Pace International Criminal Court Moot from its inception.

Several of our faculty who were Ben’s colleagues at the Law School reflected on his impact:

“Although having had to deal with the worst crimes against humanity and darkest side of our species’ behavior, he was always optimistic and positive about life and the promise of good in people. Ever collegial, Ben was always ready for a discussion about current events, his experiences as a Nuremberg prosecutor, and national or international political and legal developments.”
 — Nicholas A. Robinson

“Ben was the perfect example of a life well-lived. He worked tirelessly through his Peace Foundation to create a permanent war crimes tribunal and inspired a generation of our students to join him on that quest. The Foundation was instrumental in establishing several of our international law programs over the years, and placed scores of Pace students as summer interns in each of the international criminal law tribunals. I can never express enough my gratitude to Ben and especially Don for their major contributions to the life of the law school and to its many international law students in general, and, happily, to my life in particular. My, how he will be missed.”
 — Gayl S. Westerman

Ben’s legacy has been celebrated widely in the media and I encourage you to read more about him in The New York Times, the New York Post, or on his website.

On his 100th birthday Ben was quoted, saying: “I have no time to die. I’ve got too much to do.” It is our duty to learn from his legacy, to celebrate all he achieved, and to continue his important work. I invite you to share your thoughts and memories of him with one another, or more publicly on our LinkedIn page.

Horace Anderson
Dean and Professor of Law
Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

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