Special to the JTA Auschwitz Survivor Elected to Be a Judge on International Tribunal
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Special to the JTA Auschwitz Survivor Elected to Be a Judge on International Tribunal

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Law professor Thomas Buergenthal, believed to be the youngest inmate and survivor of Auschwitz, has been elected to be a judge on the new Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the only American to win the honor.

Buergenthal, who is on the University of Texas faculty, was nominated by the government of Costa Rica to serve on the court and he was approved by the general assembly of the Organization of American States. His term is far six years.

The United States is ineligible to nominate or vote for a judge because it has not ratified the American Convention on Human Rights which entered into force last July. President Carter has signed the convention and urged its ratification but the convention, submitted to the Senate in January, 1978, has not been ratified by the Senate.

Buergenthal, whose home is in Austin, Texas, was not immediately available for an interview, being out of the city, but the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that he was born 45 years ago in Czechoslovakia of German-Jewish parents. At the age of 10, he and his family had fled from Czechoslovakia to Poland from where they were to leave for England when World War II began. The Nazis moved them to various camps in Poland and in January, 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz with his parents.

He was separated from his parents there and went on a “death march” from Auschwitz to Sachsenhausen near Berlin in January, 1945 before being liberated by Soviet and Polish troops. In 1949, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee brought him out of Poland and placed him in Paterson, N. J. with an uncle.

He attended Bethany College in West Virginia and obtained doctorates in law from New York University and Harvard. Before going to Texas, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the State University of New York in Buffalo. Buergenthal, who has written extensively on human rights co-authored with Prof. Louis Sohn of Harvard a basic text, “The International Protection of Human Rights.” The new court, consisting of seven members, will hold its first session in July in San Jose, Costa Rica, where it will be permanently located.

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