Dimensions in Testimony Education issues an interview with Nuremburg prosecutor Ben Ferentz

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Dimensions in Testimony Education issues an interview with Nuremburg prosecutor Ben Ferentz

Ben Ferentz, the last remaining Nuremburg prosecutor who died in Florida earlier this month, gave countless interviews over the course of his illustrious career.

But certainly none was longer or more technically challenging than the three-day testimony he gave to the USC Shoah Foundation in the midst of the Covid pandemic in July 2020.

The need for social distancing required filming to be done remotely, with boxes of elaborate equipment shipped to Ferentz’s modest home in Florida.

“There was an urgency about filming the interview in the middle of the pandemic,” said Ryan Fenton-Strauss, interim director of media and archives at the USC Shoah Foundation. “We built this remote platform to try to continue gathering testimony, and Ben was our first interviewee.

He was a giant of a human being. And here he was – this man who had dedicated his life to this mission of humanity – speaking to us from his humble home in Florida.”

The result is USC Shoah Foundation’s latest educational interview Dimensions in Testimony (DiT), released today, an interactive preservation in which students and faculty can ask questions that prompt real-time responses from his pre-recorded interview. Until now only available in museums, Dimensions in Testimony Education was created specifically for educational use and is available for free in classrooms via computers or mobile devices.

In the DiT session, the prominent lawyer and peace advocate spoke about a long career that included entering concentration camps as they were being liberated, prosecuting Nazi war criminals and fighting for the creation of the International Criminal Court.

In one from the late 1940s, he described attending a meeting in Bonn with representatives of the West German Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The issue was the care and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries in post-war Germany.

At the time, to free up space, German municipalities typically recycled cemeteries every 20 years. Ferenc insisted that Jewish graves be exempted from this practice and – in accordance with Jewish tradition – be left undisturbed forever. This suggestion, however, was opposed by Ferenc’s German colleague (“probably an old Nazi”), who told the young American lawyer, “Mr. Ferenc, you can’t expect us to do more for the Jews than we do for our own people.

“It made me explode,” Ferentz recalled in his testimony.

“I had something in my pocket that I took when I visited Auschwitz. It was some bones [I had found in the] ashes behind the crematorium… And when I returned to [my] Hotel Frankfurt. I took an envelope from the hotel and put them in the envelope,” Ferentz said.

“[So at the meeting about the cemeteries] I took the dice out of my pocket, hit them on the table, and said, “Who do you want to pay? They? They would have come to you if you hadn’t killed them. You killed them, you tell them who will pay.

The German authorities complied with Ferenc’s request.

Read more from Ben’s Dimensions in a testimonial interview.

Ferencz’s DiT is available for free to teachers and students anywhere in the world. It is accompanied by the so-called educational activity A conversation with Ben Ferentzwhich integrates interactive biography to help students explore the meaning of the “rule of law” and its application in response to crimes of genocide.

His DiT will also feature prominently in a new installment soon to be released in Echoes & Reflections, a Holocaust education program developed in partnership between the USC Shoah Foundation, ADL and Yad Vashem.

Dimensions in Testimony was developed in 2014 in partnership with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, with technology from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and concept from Conscience Display. Integration into IWitness is made possible through the generous support of the Snider Foundation.

To date, more than 60 Holocaust survivors and witnesses have been interviewed for Dimensions in Testimony. Debuting with a permanent installation featuring Pinchas Gutter at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 2015, DiT installations are now featured in 11 museums around the world.

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