Monday, September 20, 2010
Remembering a true Jewish hero after 5 years
Simon Wiesenthal: sir its been a pleasure doing a report about you when I took a class about the terrible times in Europe in 1940s, you are truly an inspiration for all the Jews throughout the world! remembering you 5 years later, may you rest in peace!
Simon Wiesenthal KBE (December 31, 1908 – September 20, 2005) was an Austrian-Jewish Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter who pursued Nazi war criminals.
Following four and a half years in the German concentration camps such as Janowska, Plaszow, and Mauthausen during World War II, Wiesenthal dedicated most of his life to tracking down and gathering information on fugitive Nazis so that they could be brought to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 1947, he co-founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Linz, Austria, in order to gather information for future war crime trials. Later he opened Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna. Wiesenthal wrote The Sunflower, which describes a life-changing event he experienced when he was in the camp.
Wiesenthal died in his sleep at age 96 in Vienna on September 20, 2005, and was buried in the city of Herzliya in Israel on September 23. He is survived by his daughter, Paulinka Kriesberg, and three grandchildren. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, located in Los Angeles in the United States, is named in his honor.
A biography by Guy Walters asserts that many of Wiesenthal's claims regarding his education, wartime experiences and Nazi hunting exploits are untrue or exaggerated. Walters wrote an op-ed in the Daily Mail on September 10, 2010 titled "Why I believe the king of the Nazi hunters, Simon Wiesenthal, was a fraud", reasserting his claims, stating "unfortunately, Wiesenthal’s intelligence was useless." This followed a BBC interview with Wiesenthal biographer Tom Segev on September 7, 2010, where Segev accused Wiesenthal of being a liar "who lived between reality and fantasy" and ruined innocent people's lives.
In the 1970s, he became involved in Austrian politics when he pointed out that several ministers in Bruno Kreisky's newly formed Socialist government had been Nazis when Austria was part of the Third Reich. Kreisky, himself Jewish, responded by attacking Wiesenthal as a Nestbeschmutzer (someone who dirties their own nest). In Austria, which took decades to acknowledge its role in Nazi crimes, Wiesenthal tended to be ignored and often insulted. In 1975, after Wiesenthal had released a report on FPÖ party chairman Friedrich Peter's Nazi past, Chancellor Bruno Kreisky suggested Wiesenthal was part of a "certain mafia" seeking to besmirch Austria and even claimed Wiesenthal had collaborated with Nazis and the Gestapo to survive. Wiesenthal labeled the claim ridiculous, sued Kreisky for libel and won.
Over the years, Wiesenthal received many death threats. In 1982, a bomb placed by German and Austrian neo-Nazis exploded outside his house in Vienna, Austria.
During the Waldheim affair, Wiesenthal defended the Austrian president, for which he was severely criticized.
Even after turning 90, Wiesenthal spent time at his small office in the Jewish Documentation Center in central Vienna. In April 2003, he announced his retirement, claiming that he had found the mass murderers he had been looking for and said: "I have survived them all. If there were any left, they'd be too old and weak to stand trial today. My work is done." And he added that the last major Austrian war criminal still alive is Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's right-hand man, who was last seen by reliable witnesses in 1992. However, Prior to his retirement, Wiesenthal was also believed to be working on the case of Aribert Heim, one of the most notorious and wanted Nazi concentration-camp doctors.
Wiesenthal spent his last years in Vienna, where his wife, Cyla, died of natural causes on November 10, 2003, at age 95. They are survived by their daughter, Paulinka Kriesberg, and three grandchildren. Wiesenthal was buried in Herzliya, Israel.
In a statement on Wiesenthal's death, Council of Europe chairman Terry Davis said, "Without Simon Wiesenthal's relentless effort to find Nazi criminals and bring them to justice, and to fight[ing] anti-Semitism and prejudice, Europe would never have succeeded in healing its wounds and reconciling itself.... He was a soldier of justice, which is indispensable to our freedom, stability and peace."
In October 2006, the Vienna city council overwhelmingly approved renaming a street the Simon-Wiesenthal-Gasse, formerly Ichmanngasse. The previous name honored Franz Ichmann, a songwriter in the early 20th century and card-carrying member of the Nazi party.
In 2010 Wiesenthal was honoured by a commemorative stamp, a joint issue by the postal administrations of Austria and Israel; first day of issue was June 14, 2010.
He was called the "Conscience of the Holocaust," and was a pioneer against anti-semitism. Best known for his role in locating Adolf Eichmann, the one-time SS leader who organized the extermination of 6 million Jews, in Argentina and was abducted by Israeli agent Peter Maulkin and others in 1960 to be tried and hanged for war crimes committed against the Jews!