Where are you from, and why there?
I am from a country that no longer exists. Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until it was split between Hungary and Romania after the first World War. The home in which I was born in 1920 had neither electricity nor running water (not even a TV!). We fled to the United States to avoid persecution and poverty. Poor immigrants were then welcome by the Statue of Liberty. My earliest recollections begin in Hell’s Kitchen in New York.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
How to create a more peaceful and humane world. I had seen the indescribable horrors as a soldier and war crimes investigator in World War Two. When I was Chief Prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg war crime trials against SS squads that had murdered over a million innocent people in cold blood, my “plea of humanity to law” called for a new rule of law which would allow all persons to be protected by law regardless of their race or creed.
How did you get involved?
Although my parents had never read a book, I was lucky to go to good schools and to get a scholarship to the Harvard Law School.
What’s the biggest challenge for the issue(s) today?
The stupidity of so many members of the public. There is an urgent need for reeducation on all levels so that we stop glorifying war-making and settle international disputes by the rule of law rather than war. That was the appeal of my supreme commander Dwight D. Eisenhower when he became President of the United States. Repudiation of that appeal is unworthy of America’s great democratic traditions.
Who are your most frequent allies? Any surprises?
The young people, who are also the most likely victims. Many politicians and diplomats are too concerned with protecting their own positions and powers rather than the human welfare of everyone – even immigrants and their children.
What drives you?
The awareness that law is better than war – no matter what. We now have the capacity to destroy the electrical grid on planet Earth. The use of armed force is not a safeguard but a menace that imperils everyone. I am convinced that the current practice of national leaders, who are unable to agree, sending their young people to kill other young people they don’t even know, and who may have done them no harm. They then declare victory, rest for awhile and then start the barbarism again – with more money spent on more arms to kill more people rather than to help more people who are driven to desperation. Such a policy is genocidal, suicidal, a crime against humanity and just plain stupid!
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
My career reflects my slogan, “law, not war.” To reassure the fainthearted, I always have three pieces of advice - One: Never give up! Two: Never give up! and Three: Never give up! That’s what I stand up for and that’s what I will die for. I appreciate all the help I can get.