Eli Rosenbaum received the World of Upstanders Award in 2015.
Rosenbaum is the longest-serving prosecutor and investigator of Nazi criminals and other perpetrators of human rights violations in world history, having worked on these cases at the U.S. Department of Justice for nearly twenty-five years.
Although Rosenbaum is widely known for the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators, he has taken unprecedented steps to prosecute perpetrators of current massacres, particularly the perpetrators of the genocide in Guatemala. Under Rosenbaum, the Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy unit is pursuing war criminals from Bosnia, Guatemala, and Rwanda. Rosenbaum’s work sends a message to genocide perpetrators: “You’ll have to be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life.”
A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. and MBA, Finance) and of the Harvard Law School, he served from 1994 to 2010 as Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which was created by Attorney General order to investigate and prosecute World War II-era Nazi criminals and, following the December 2004 expansion of its mission by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, also investigated and prosecuted criminal and civil cases involving participants in post-World War II crimes of genocide, extrajudicial killing, and torture committed abroad under color of foreign law.
He previously served as a trial attorney and then deputy director at OSI and has also worked as a corporate litigator in Manhattan with the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. In March 2010, OSI was merged with another Criminal Division section to form the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), and Rosenbaum was named Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy in the new unit. In that position, he remains in charge of the Justice Department’s continuing enforcement efforts in the World War II Nazi cases and he also directs the development of the new section’s strategic and policy initiatives in the “modern” (i.e., post-World War II) human rights cases.
Under Mr. Rosenbaum’s leadership, OSI won major awards from Jewish organizations and Holocaust survivor groups, and it has been called “the most successful government Nazi-hunting organization on earth” (ABC News, 3/25/95) and “the world’s most aggressive and effective Nazi-hunting operation” (The Washington Post, 8/27/95), possessing “a tremendous success record, [having] uncovered and won more cases than any other Nazi-hunting operation in the world” (USA Today, 1/29/97). In 2009, the Simon Wiesenthal Center again termed OSI the world’s only “highly-successful proactive prosecution program” in Nazi cases. In November 2008, Rosenbaum received the Assistant Attorney General’s first-ever Award for Human Rights Law Enforcement. He has also received the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Special Initiative and the Anti-Defamation League’s “Heroes in Blue” award. In 1997, he was selected by the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School to be the recipient of the school’s Honorary Fellowship Award, presented during commencement ceremonies to one attorney “who has distinguished himself or herself in commitment to public service” by “making significant contributions to the ends of justice at the cost of great personal risk and sacrifice.”
Rosenbaum’s published works include Betrayal: The Untold Story of the Kurt Waldheim Investigation and Cover-Up (St. Martin’s Press), which was selected for “Notable Books of 1993” by The New York Times Book Review and “Best Books of 1993” by The San Francisco Chronicle.