The hope of changing people's minds about war has kept him going for three-quarters of a century. Given what he witnessed at Buchenwald and other Nazi death camps, the most extraordinary thing about Benjamin Ferencz in his 101st year may well be his unwavering cheerfulness. His optimism about life and humanity shines through every page. 'If you're crying on the inside,' he says, 'you better be laughing on the outside . . . No use drowning in your own tears.' This seems as good a message as any to take away from this testimony to one exceptional individual.
You would therefore expect his life story to be riveting, and it is. Nadia Khomami, the journalist who persuaded Ferencz to turn his tales into a book and then conducted and transcribed the interviews, has done a service to history and to readers who enjoy a good yarn. Ferencz never takes himself too seriously and Khomami has a lively style. Together they have made an engaging book. Indeed, my most serious criticism of Parting Words is one I hardly ever make about any reading material. It is too short. There wasn’t one anecdote or episode that didn’t make you wish to hear more about it, to understand it better, to learn what happened next.