Director, Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy, Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice | Counselor for War Crimes Accountability, United States Department of Justice

Eli 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 40 years.  A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. and MBA, Finance) and of the Harvard Law School (J.D.), he served from 1994 to 2010 as Director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI), where he had previously served as a trial attorney and then as Deputy Director.  Since 2010, he has served as Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy in the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), a new unit that was created that year when OSI was merged with another component of the Criminal Division.  Under Rosenbaum’s leadership, the U.S. Justice Department program has won more World War II Nazi cases over the past 30 years than have the law enforcement authorities of all the other countries of the world combined (Washington Post, Jan. 26, 2020); the most recent such victory was the February 2021 removal to Germany of a former Nazi concentration camp guard. 

On June 21, 2022, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the creation of a War Crimes Accountability Team to centralize and strengthen the Justice Department’s ongoing work to hold accountable those who have committed war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine during Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression, and he named Rosenbaum to lead this effort and to serve as Counselor for War Crimes Accountability.  Rosenbaum was specifically assigned to coordinate efforts across the Justice Department and with the federal government partners and authorities abroad to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. This initiative brings together the Department’s leading experts in investigations involving human rights abuses and war crimes and other atrocities; and will provide wide-ranging technical assistance, including operational assistance and advice regarding criminal prosecutions, evidence collection, forensics, and relevant legal analysis. The team also plays an integral role in the Department’s ongoing investigations of potential war crimes over which the U.S. possesses jurisdiction, such as the killing and wounding of U.S. journalists covering the Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Rosenbaum is the recipient of a variety of awards for his work.  In April 2022, he received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service.  In January 2021, he received the Henry E. Petersen Memorial Award, the Justice Department Criminal Division’s highest honor, conferred annually on a single official “who has made a lasting contribution to the Division and who best exemplifies the character, diligence, courage, professionalism, and talent that Henry E. Petersen displayed during his long and illustrious career.”  Other awards that Rosenbaum has received include: the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Human Rights Law Enforcement (2008), the William Mitchell College of Law/World Without Genocide “World of Upstanders” award for his “lifelong commitment to seeking justice for victims and prosecuting perpetrators of genocide and mass killings” (2015), the Humanitarian Award of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust (2008), the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service (2020), the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Special Initiative (2008), the Anti-Defamation League’s “Heroes in Blue” award (2000), the Virginia Law Foundation’s Rule of Law Award (2008), the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues’ 25th Anniversary Recognition Award (2017), and the Florida Holocaust Museum’s Loebenberg Humanitarian Award (2015).  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.”   In April 2021, he accepted, on behalf of the Department, the Elie Wiesel Award  of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (the Museum’s highest honor) which was presented to recognize the successes of the federal law enforcement program that he has led, since 1995, targeting WWII Nazi criminals.

OSI was created in 1979 by Attorney General order to investigate and prosecute WWII-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.  Under his leadership, OSI also performed crucial work for the federal government’s inter-agency efforts to trace gold, artwork and other assets looted by the Nazis from Holocaust victims and also to locate, declassify and disclose millions of pages of documents under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998.  Rosenbaum has also worked as a corporate litigator in Manhattan with the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and as General Counsel of the World Jewish Congress, where he directed the investigation that resulted in the worldwide exposure of the Nazi past of former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. 

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-WWII) 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 2014, the Simon Wiesenthal Center again gave the U.S. Justice Department it’s “A” rating, which it reserves for “highly successful proactive prosecution programs.”  The United States is the only country in the world to have earned the Center’s “A” rating in each year since the annual ratings were first issued (2001). 

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.