Daily Israel Report

Nazi-Hunter and Holocaust-Conscience Simon Wiesenthal, 96

Simon Wiesenthal, who survived a dozen Nazi concentration camps and then spent his life hunting down and bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, has died at the age 96.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 9/20/2005, 11:54 AM / Last Update: 9/20/2005, 11:19 AM

Wiesenthal, whose wife of 67 years, Cyla, died two years ago, is survived by their only child, Paulinka Kreisberg of Herzliya, and her children and grandchildren. He died in his sleep at his home in Vienna.

Wiesenthal is credited with ferreting out over 1,000 Nazi war criminals. Among them were Franz Stangl, who commanded the prison camps at Treblinka and Sobibor and had a role in at least 900,000 deaths, and Queens housewife Mrs. Hermine Ryan, who supervised the killings of several hundred children at Maidanek. Both were extradited to Germany and received life imprisonment.

Weisenthal was saved from death by firing squad on three different occasions - once because the executioner heard church bells, stopped shooting and went off to pray, and another time when a German officer ordered him freed at the last moment.

A third time, towards the end of World War II, a German officer decided that live Jews, and their need for guarding, would provide an excuse for him and his soldiers not to have to go to the eastern front and fight - and so he let them live.

Wiesenthal was barely alive when he and the other inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp were liberated by an American armored unit on May 5, 1945.

Several biographies were written about him, and he wrote an autobiography entitled "The Murderers Among Us."

Asked once why he didn't pursue his chosen career of architecture after the war and instead went into the Nazi-hunting business, Wiesenthal answered, "When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, 'What have you done?', there will be many answers. You will say, 'I became a jeweler', Another will say, I have smuggled coffee and American cigarettes', Another will say, 'I built houses', But I will say, 'I didn't forget you'."

"The history of man is the history of crimes," he once said, "and history can repeat. So information is a defense. Through this we can build, we must build, a defense against repetition."

For more information on Simon Wiesenthal, click, for instance, here or here.