Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal dies
By Boris Groendahl
VIENNA (Reuters) – Simon Wiesenthal, who waged an untiring
campaign to track down Nazi war criminals and keep alive the
memory of fascist atrocities, died on Tuesday at the age of 96,
the Jewish Community of Vienna said.
Wiesenthal, a Jew and former concentration camp inmate,
achieved perhaps his greatest success in the discovery in
Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, the man Adolf Hitler entrusted
with carrying out his genocide program against the Jews.
Eichmann was captured by the Israeli secret service and
smuggled to Israel where he was tried and hanged in 1961.
Wiesenthal, who helped trace some 1,100 Nazis, many of whom
had assumed false identities, died early on Tuesday in his
apartment in Vienna, the Community said. A funeral will be held
on Wednesday in Vienna. He will be buried in Israel.
“Simon Wiesenthal acted to bring justice to those who had
escaped justice,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev
said. “In doing so, he was the voice of 6 million.”
Altogether the Nazis are estimated to have murdered at
least 11 million civilians, including 6 million Jews, between
1933 and 1945, mainly in central and eastern Europe.
The Wiesenthal Center is still investigating some 1,200
cases of Nazi war criminals it suspects to be still alive and
at large in 15 countries including Austria, Ukraine and
“Wiesenthal’s personal mission has ended, and there are
others who are carrying on with the work,” said Efraim Zuroff,
director of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, on radio.
Wiesenthal, born in 1908 in what is now Ukraine, travelled
the world into his old age, lecturing on the Holocaust and as
director of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna
collecting data on the whereabouts of unpunished villains of
He maintained that his motivation was not anger but
“I am someone who seeks justice, not revenge,” Wiesenthal
said. “My work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that
they will never rest.”
German President Horst Koehler paid tribute.
“Wiesenthal was one of the greats who contributed to
clearing up the crimes of the Nazis. He also made it easier for
Germany to look to the future.”
DETAINED IN 12 CAMPS
Wiesenthal was detained by the Germans in Lvov in Galicia
in 1941 and forced to work on the railroad. After passing
through 12 concentration camps, he ended up in the Mauthausen
camp near Linz in Austria, where he was liberated by U.S.
He weighed 50 kilogrammes. Eighty-nine members of his
family perished in the Holocaust. But he was reunited after the
war with his wife Cyla, who managed to escape a camp in 1942.
Wiesenthal said he began memorizing his perpetrators’ names
during his detention.
A job at the War Crimes Office of the U.S. army was the
beginning of a mission that spanned six decades and continued
until last year. Wiesenthal said his own survival was a
privilege which committed him to action.
“He just took the job, nobody appointed him, nobody else
wanted it,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
Wiesenthal founded the Jewish Documentation Center in 1947,
which opened its office in Vienna in 1961. But Austria, which
was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, was ambivalent for a long
time about its famous citizen.
Although Wiesenthal never believed in the collective guilt
of a people, he pointed out that a disproportionate number of
Nazi war criminals were Austrians and attacked the right-wing
Freedom party for tolerating Nazis in its ranks.
“Eichmann and 70 percent of his troupe as well as
two-thirds of the commandants of the concentration camps were
Austrians,” Wiesenthal said. “And after all, Hitler was no
Hitler was born in Braunau, Austria, in 1889.
Wiesenthal once reflected: “Should history repeat itself,
my example will repeat itself too…and not once, but
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Zawadil and Franziska
Schenker in Vienna, Mark Heinrich and Dan Williams in
Jerusalem, and Jackie Frank in Washington)