Man Who Hunted NAZIS; TRIBUTES TO SIMON WIESENTHAL.. 'CONSCIENCE OF THE HOLOCAUST'

The Mirror (London, England), September 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

Man Who Hunted NAZIS; TRIBUTES TO SIMON WIESENTHAL.. 'CONSCIENCE OF THE HOLOCAUST'


Byline: By DON MACKAY who met Simon Wiesenthal in 1982

THE world's greatest tracker of Nazi war criminals has died at the age of 96, it was confirmed yesterday.

Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to finding those responsible for the atrocities of Nazi Germany, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, Austria.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center which continues his work, said: "Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust.

"When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember. He did not forget.

"He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of history's greatest crime to justice.

"There was no press conference and no president or prime minister or world leader announced his appointment. He just took the job. It was a job no one else wanted.

"The task was overwhelming. The cause had few friends. The Allies were already focused on the Cold War, the survivors were rebuilding their shattered lives and Simon Wiesenthal was all alone, combining the role of both prosecutor and detective at the same time."

Wiesenthal, who had been trained as an architect before the war, lost 89 of his relatives in the Holocaust.

His most famous coup was helping to capture Adolf Eichman, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust, kidnapped by the Israeli secret service, Mossad, in Argentina in 1953 and smuggled into the then new Israeli state to be found guilty and then hanged.

Ten years later he brought Gestapo officer Karl Silberbauer to justice for the arrest of 14-year-old Anne Frank, who had spent two years hiding in an Amsterdam attic before being sent to a death camp.

Wiesenthal said: "She was only a young girl. What harm could she do to the Nazi government?

"Her diaries will live on longer than me. That's why I keep going. To keep those memories alive. That the dead can talk to the living."

Many who met Wiesenthal were struck by his single- mindedness and eyes that shone with the "obsession of the zealot".

I met Wiesenthal in 1982 in his cramped three-roomed office in Vienna to ask him the bizarre question: "Is there a Mrs Mengele?'

Wiesenthal growled over the mention of the Nazi doctor, rightly dubbed "The Angel Of Death" who had carried out horrible genetic experiments on young Jewish children in Auschwitz extermination camp.

Wiesenthal replied: "He married his own sister-in-law after his brother was killed on the Russian front.

"He simply discarded his own wife in the same way he treated his patients."

And his eyes went stone-cold as he remembered the so-called white-coated doctor who played Wagner - Adolf Hitler's favourite classical composer - as he decided which stick-like remains of human beings would live to work - or be sent to the gas chambers. …

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