Last Surviving Prosecutor of Nazis at Nuremberg Dies at 103
Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving member of the prosecuting team at the Nuremberg trials that convicted Nazi ringleaders for crimes against humanity, died on April 7 in Florida, JTA.org reported. 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 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 went 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.
Finland to Become First Foreign Buyer of Israel’s David’s Sling Aerial Defense System
Finland is set to become the first foreign buyer of Israel’s David’s Sling air defense system, the country’s defense minister announced on April 5, JNS.org reported.
The deal is worth some $347 million, and includes further options worth $237 million, according to a statement from the Finnish Defense Ministry.
The announcement came one day after the Nordic nation became the 31st member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
David’s Sling, developed by Rafael Advanced Defensive Systems together with U.S. defense giant Raytheon, is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, UAVs, enemy planes and other aerial threats.
Cyberattack Crashes Websites of Several Israeli Universities
A coordinated cyberattack took down the websites of major Israeli universities on April 4, JNS.org reported.
A hacker group calling itself “Anonymous Sudan” claimed responsibility for the attack on its Telegram account, stating that the “Israel education sector has been dropped because of what they did in Palestine.”
Institutions impacted by the attack include Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, the Open University of Israel and Reichman University in Herzliya.
“These are service-disrupting attacks — those that only bring down websites and do not steal information — and can be recovered from relatively easily. However, it can be assumed that these groups are trying to produce more significant attacks, including ransom attacks and data theft,” Check Point, an Israeli cybersecurity firm, said in a statement.
Amid Criticism, Columbia University Announces New Research Center in Tel Aviv
Columbia University announced that it will launch a “Global Center” in Tel Aviv amid dueling letters from faculty supporting and opposing the decision, JTA.org reported.
The university’s Global Centers act as hubs for local scholars and researchers to work with the New York City school’s faculty, students and alumni to study and address a range of local and global issues. The center in Tel Aviv will join 10 others across the globe.
The Tel Aviv Global Center will enable the university “to connect with individuals and institutions, as well as with the alumni community in Israel, drawing them closer to the ongoing life of the University,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement. He added that the center will focus on climate change, technology, entrepreneurship, arts, the humanities, biology, health and medicine.
Columbia already has ties to Tel Aviv through Tel Aviv University, with which it began a dual
degree program in 2019, despite also facing faculty and student objections.
For decades, Columbia has been the site of heated debate among both faculty and students over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime in 2021 Arson That Damaged Texas Synagogue
The man charged with setting fire to a synagogue in Austin, Texas, in 2021 has pleaded guilty to two federal charges, including the destruction of religious property, a hate crime, JTA.org reported.
The board of directors at Congregation Beth Israel endorsed the plea deal, telling members that the agreement had no bearing on Franklin Barrett Sechriest’s ultimate sentence and noting that a trial could deepen their trauma.
The sanctuary, historic front doors and stained glass windows at the Reform synagogue were damaged in the October 2021 fire that Sechriest, during a plea hearing on April 6, admitted to setting. The fire was extinguished after a passing motorist alerted authorities; Sechriest, then 18, was arrested 10 days after the fire after being identified in surveillance footage.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Sechriest pleaded guilty to arson and to the hate crime, but prosecutors dropped a third charge, use of a fire to commit a felony. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced at a separate hearing, scheduled for June 23.
— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb