Benjamin Ferencz: Watcher of the Sky

Benjamin Ferencz, a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, has dedicated his life to using the law to prevent mass violence. This film and the accompanying activities ask students to reflect on what it means to be a "watcher of the sky" in these stories as well as in their own lives and communities.


Lessons and Activities

  1. Create an identity chart for Benjamin Ferencz. Identity charts are graphic tools that help students consider the many factors that shape who we are as individuals and as communities. These charts can be used to deepen students’ understanding of themselves, groups, nations, and historical and literary figures.
  2. What are some of the elements that shaped Ferencz and the path he chose for his life? Compare his identity chart to Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s identity chart and Raphael Lemkin’s identity chart. Do you see any patterns?
  3. One of the significant accomplishments of the Nuremberg trials was the establishment of individual criminal responsibility for crimes that were committed during WWII. Ferencz explained that, for his case, he chose a group of well-educated men, many with multiple advanced degrees who were in leadership positions. How did he explain why he chose those men as compared to lower ranking members of the Einsatzgruppen? What does he mean when he says that it was a “leadership crime"? What role does Ferencz see for law in the international community?
  4. In the film, like Lemkin before him, Ferencz lobbied the UN to make change. What strategies did he use? What are the challenges that he faced?
  5. Ferencz told the story of Tycho Brahe. What is that story and what does it mean? What are the qualities of a  “watcher of the sky”? Why do you think that it is particularly significant for Ferencz? How are Ferencz, Ocampo, and Lemkin watchers of the sky? Can you think of other watchers of the sky?

Related Facing History Resources

The Nuremberg Trials, held from 1945-1949, were a galvanizing moment in history, international law, and human rights. This film provides archival footage and modern-day interviews with trial participants.

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