Over the past century, Ben has collected stories of family life, national service, legal advocacy, and civic participation.
1920 - 1943
From Hell's Kitchen To Harvard
Here you will find a brief extract of some events that may have shaped my life from the time I was born in a little village in Transylvania to my early years in New York. After my parents divorced when I was six, I became a lonely adolescent. For my antics, I was threatened with expulsion from a special high school for “gifted boys.” I managed to earn a diploma from City College and gain admittance and a scholarship to Harvard Law School, where my legal mind was shaped, and I began to see the world in a new light.
1943 - 1946
Preparing For War and The War Years
When Japan attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor in 1941, I tried to enter military service where I might do the most good. 15 months later, having graduated from the Harvard Law School, the U.S. army accepted me as a Private in the artillery being trained for the invasion of France. My military career was distinctive without distinction; my travails in the army are here described.
My war years were a combination of bizarre comedy mixed with gruesome tragedy. It was only when we were entering Germany that my experience as a lawyer and expert on war crimes was put to use. Some incidents described herein will indicate what it was really like to be a war crimes investigator in World War Two. After three terrible years, under circumstances that were rather unusual, I was honorably discharged as a Sergeant of Infantry, and awarded five battle stars on the day after Christmas 1945.
1946 - 1949
Nuremberg Trials and Tribulations
In the spring of 1946, I was recruited by the Pentagon to return to Germany to assist in additional war crimes prosecutions at Nuremberg. As soon as I was gainfully employed, I married my childhood sweetheart, Gertrude, who had been waiting patiently for me for many years. My first assignment was to collect evidence in Berlin that would support a dozen planned trials once the proceedings against Nazi Field Marshal Goering and cohorts was over. My new bride joined me in what we expected would be a brief honeymoon.
When secret files were discovered that showed the deliberate massacre of over a million Jews and Gypsies by special SS extermination squads, I was made the Chief Prosecutor of “the biggest murder trial in history.” All 22 defendants were convicted, and 13 were sentenced to death. I was 27 years old and it was my first (and last) criminal case. Some of the details of the trials and life in Germany between 1946 and 1948 are here recorded.
1948 - 1956
Seeking Redress For Hitler's Victims
To avoid revenge and retaliation, victims of oppression must know that their oppressors have been brought to justice; and efforts must be made to heal the wounds of those who have suffered. There were no precedents for adequately coping with the Holocaust. New legal concepts and new laws would be required.
Restitution of expropriated property was only a beginning. Injuries had to be compensated and new organizations were needed to help victims prove their claims. The programs of restitution, compensation, and legal assistance were all intertwined. Starting in 1948, I was deeply involved in all of these endeavors. Concentration camp victims who had survived with only their tattoos and scarred memories needed help urgently and desperately. The complexity of problems, and their solutions, could hardly be imagined.
1956 - 1970
Practicing Law In New York
I had graduated from law school in 1943. When I returned to New York in 1956, after having served in World War II and in post-war Germany, I found that practically all of my professional connections to the homeland had been severed. I was just another unemployed lawyer looking for a job. My experience as a war crimes prosecutor and expert in obtaining compensation for impoverished survivors of Nazi persecution did not attract New York law firms. What developed instead was a rather interesting and unique practice.
1970 - Present
The Search For World Peace
There is no magic formula for achieving world peace quickly. But it can and must be done if humankind is to survive on this little planet. Stimulated by trauma and despair and the prospect of imminent death at the age of fifty, I set about to do whatever I could to help create a more humane and tranquil world.
After prodigious study, I concluded that the framework had to be built around law, courts, and enforcement. I embarked on a new career as an unpaid lobbyist for peace. The UN became my workshop. My weapon was my pen, and my tools were books, articles, public lectures, media interviews, and university courses where I spread my gospel. This is how one individual has tried to change the world.
The Path To Global Survival
My determination to seek a more peaceful world was inspired by a few great thinkers. The specific path to get there was extracted from my comprehensive readings and the books I had written starting in 1975. My 1994 book on Global Survival contained a consolidated overview of possible solutions to the major problems. The focus for my own future activities had to be limited.
My initial goal was to tell the truth to the American people in order to win their support for an International Criminal Court. The confirmed Nuremberg judgment held that aggression was the supreme international crime, yet there was no international court in the world competent to hold perpetrators to account. Closing that gap in the existing legal order became my next challenging goal. I had no illusions about seeing its realization during my lifetime.
As noted at the outset, I only intended to write a number of amusing anecdotes to entertain a few members of my family or friends. Now it has turned out to be more like the autobiography I wanted to avoid.
Since I have been carried away by my own words, I think I might as well finish the story before I am carried away by other means. I have said nothing about my family and my life at home, and that omission is about to be corrected.