Jewish Auschwitz survivor who became judge in Hague court dies at 89

Thomas Buergenthal. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Thomas Buergenthal. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Thomas Buergenthal, an Auschwitz survivor who became a judge with the UN war crimes court in The Hague, has died at age 89.

The government of Goettingen, whose Thomas Buergenthal Centre houses the city library, says in a statement that he had “tirelessly dedicated himself to reconciliation and for human rights his entire life.”

Buergenthal was born in then Czechoslovakia in 1934 to a Jewish family that was forced to flee to Poland when the Germans invaded.

Their odyssey would take them to a ghetto, two work camps and the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was separated from his relatives as a young boy, and later forced on a death march to Sachsenhausen another Nazi concentration camp. A year later, Buergenthal was reunited with his mother in her birthplace of Goettingen where the two lived until 1951.

After completing his schooling in Germany, he emigrated to the United States where he studied law. A specialist in international law and human rights, Buergenthal served as a judge on the International Court of Justice in the Hague from March 2000 until his resignation in September 2010.

He was the sole dissenter in a key non-binding ICJ ruling in 2004 that a barrier built by Israel in the West Bank was illegal.

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