Boca Raton resident Benjamin Ferencz, who was an investigator of Nazi war crimes, was presented with the Governor’s Medal of Freedom on Thursday after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will help continue the award program.
Before signing the bill (SB 1360) at Florida Atlantic University, DeSantis said the awards are intended to recognize people with exemplary achievements and to pass that knowledge to future generations.
“We’ve been able to honor some great people, but when you start talking about that World War II era, and you look, we’re in 2022, a lot of that first-hand experience is fading,” DeSantis said. The new law eliminates a July 1, 2022 expiration date on the award program.
The awards were put in state law in 2020 as part of a bill that accompanies the budget. It included a July 1, 2021, expiration date. Lawmakers last year extended the deadline by one year.
Now age 102, Ferencz is the last surviving Nuremberg Trials prosecutor. Ferencz said wars shouldn’t be glorified and he remains willing to share what he’s learned from “the horrors” he has seen.
“We see it still happening today,” Ferencz said. “You see the pictures on television, (people) running with their infant children, hospitals being bombed, and we have not yet learned the lesson from Nuremberg, despite the fact that we laid it out clear and unmistakable.”
Ferencz is the fourth person to receive the awards, joining the late Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, Felix Rodríguez, a Cuban-American former Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary operations officer, and Barbara Nicklaus, who is married to golfer Jack Nicklaus and is a longtime supporter of children’s health care.