Sphere is publishing "life lessons" from the last surviving prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Benjamin Ferencz.
Parting Words: 9 Lessons for a Remarkable ife tells the story of Ferencz, currently 99 years old, who prosecuted 22 leading Nazis in the Nuremberg Trials, while each chapter also includes his learnings on subjects such as ambition, determination, happiness and love. Guardian assistant news editor Nadia Khomami will collate the book.
Little, Brown senior commissioning editor Emily Barrett acquired world rights direct from the author and the book will publish on 31st December 2020.
Ferencz, who turns 100 in March, said: "As a combat soldier and a war crimes investigator I witnessed unimaginable horrors. The greatest thing I learned was that war can turn otherwise normal people into mass murderers. My slogan, ‘law not war’ points the way to a more humane and peaceful world, and I hope that readers will want to engage with this most of all once they’ve read the book.’"
He said the book is called Parting Words because he is in his 100th year, which perhaps will be his last. "If I have anything to do with it, I will live for another 100 years and these will be far from my ‘parting words'," he said however. "I am glad to be sharing the things I have learned throughout my life in the hope it will motivate others to fulfil theirs."
Sphere described Barrett’s commission as "serendipitous". After liking a funny tweet from Khomami, she saw a 2017 interview with Ferencz on her profile. She reached out to Khomami asking if Ferencz would write a book to publish the year he turned 100. Ferencz agreed and Khomami joined the project as a writer.
Khomami said: "When I first picked up the phone and called Ben I expected a serious and gloomy person but I was surprised to find him down to earth, joyful and full of hope. Despite seven decades between us I’ve been struck by how much we have in common, from teaching ourselves English as young immigrants to avoiding trouble in tough neighbourhoods. There’s no one left in the world with Ben’s experience, yet he’s relatable, empathetic and very funny. I’m glad more people will now have the opportunity to be as inspired by him as I am."
Barrett said: "I hope this doesn’t sound clichéd because I mean it desperately: there are some books you feel humbled to publish and for me this is one of them. Ben is by far and away the most remarkable person I know and I cannot believe I hadn’t heard of him before reading his Guardian interview with Nadia."
She added Parting Words not only provides the hope we all so badly crave right now, but illustrates the skills we can cultivate to make the most of our lives.
Benjamin is a Harvard Law School graduate awarded its medal of freedom in 2014. He was a prosecutor at the 1947 Nuremberg Trials, led efforts to return property to Holocaust survivors and was essential in establishing the International Criminal Court.