News Update
21. September 2005
News
Wien
Helnwein zum Tode Simon Wiesenthals
"Ich habe Simon Wiesenthal 1988 bei meiner Arbeit an der Installation "Neunter November Nacht" kennengelernt. Es waren damals genau 50 Jahre vergangen seit der sogenannten "Reichskristallnacht" und zu diesem Anlass habe ich eine 100 meter lange Bilderwand zwischen Museum Ludwig und dem Kölner Dom errichtet. Ich habe Simon Wiesenthal damals mehrmals in Wien besucht , -er hat mir viel über diese Zeit und seine persönlichen Erfahrungen erzählt, und mich bei meinem Projekt sehr unterstützt. Seit damals waren meine Frau und ich mit ihm befreundet. Ich kenne ihn nur als absolut integeren und humorvollen Menschen, und über die unfairen Attacken, die es zeitweise von verschiedenen Seiten gegen ihn gegeben hat, war ich entsetzt. Für mich ist er einer der bedeutendsten Österreicher des 20 Jahrhunderts."
Ninth November Night
Installation, 1988, 400 x 6000 cm / 157 x 2362'', between Ludwig Museum and Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, each panel 370 x 250 cm, 146 x 98"
Simon Wiesenthal and Helnwein
1987
Holocaust Survivor Simon Wiesenthal Dies
Tuesday September 20, 2005 10:01 PM
AP Photo VIE102
By DANICA KIRKA
Associated Press Writer
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - The concentration camp guards stood with their rifles ready, awaiting the order to fire at Simon Wiesenthal and other prisoners standing along the edge of a pit where their bodies would topple. The future Nazi hunter waited to die. And waited.
Hours later, after many of the condemned slumped in exhaustion, the camp commandant strolled to the line and delivered a reprieve: Soviet troops were coming and the prisoners would be taken away.
``We thought we were going mad,'' Wiesenthal wrote after World War II. ``Perhaps we feared (or hoped) we were mad already.''
Wiesenthal, who died Tuesday in his sleep at his Vienna home at age 96, was driven by his memories of the Holocaust to fight for justice for its victims, dedicating himself to tracking down Nazi war criminals and to being a voice for the 6 million Jews who perished.
``I think he'll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice,'' said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
Wiesenthal lost 89 relatives during the war. He survived five Nazi concentration camps and seven other prisons, weighing just 99 pounds when a U.S. Army armored unit liberated him and other inmates at Mauthausen in May 1945.
Enlisted by the Americans to research war criminals, the architect pursued the mission long after Allied forces lost interest.
Wiesenthal spent more than 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals, speaking out against neo-Nazism and racism, and remembering the Jewish experience as a lesson for humanity. He estimated he helped bring some 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice.
``When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it,'' he once said.
Israeli President Moshe Katsav praised Wiesenthal as the ``biggest fighter'' of his generation. Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl noted the Nazi hunter personally ``felt the shadow of history in its brutality.''
Wiesenthal was first sent to a concentration camp in 1941, outside Lviv in what is now Ukraine. In October 1943, he escaped from the Ostbahn camp just before the Germans began killing all the inmates. He was recaptured in June 1944 and sent to Janwska, but escaped death when his SS guards retreated with the prisoners to escape Soviet troops.
Wiesenthal's quest began when he was freed by the Americans. He said he realized ``there is no freedom without justice,'' and decided to dedicate ``a few years'' to that mission. ``It became decades,'' he said.
Even after turning 90, Wiesenthal continued to remind and to warn. While appalled at atrocities committed by Serbs against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in the 1990s, he said no one should confuse the tragedy there with the Holocaust.
``We are living in a time of the trivialization of the word 'Holocaust,''' he told The Associated Press in 1999. ``What happened to the Jews cannot be compared with all the other crimes. Every Jew had a death sentence without a date.''
He was troubled recently by deteriorating relations between Muslims and Jews in Europe and by a rise in anti-Semitism on the continent, said Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal center's director for international affairs.
``That was the greatest disappointment for a man who had invested his whole life in this,'' Samuels said.
Wiesenthal's life spanned a violent century.
He was born on Dec. 31, 1908, to Jewish merchants at Buczacs, a town near Lviv in what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire. He studied in Prague and Warsaw and in 1932 received a degree in civil engineering.
He apprenticed as a building engineer in Russia before returning to Lviv to open an architectural office. The Russians occupied Lviv, then the Germans marched in and the terror began.
After the war, working first with the Americans and later from a cramped Vienna apartment packed with documents, Wiesenthal tirelessly pursued war criminals.
He was perhaps best known for his role in helping find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann, who organized the extermination of the Jews. Eichmann was tracked to Argentina, abducted by Israeli agents in 1960, and tried and hanged by Israel.
Wiesenthal often was accused of exaggerating his role in Eichmann's capture, although he never claimed sole responsibility.
Eichmann's capture ``was a teamwork of many who did not know each other,'' Wiesenthal told the AP in 1972. ``I do not know if and to what extent reports I sent to Israel were used.''
Among others Wiesenthal tracked down was Austrian policeman Karl Silberbauer, who he believed arrested the Dutch teenager Anne Frank and sent her to her death at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
That pursuit began in 1958 after a youth told Wiesenthal he did not believe in Frank's existence and murder, but would if Wiesenthal could find the man who arrested her. The search led to Silberbauer's arrest in 1963.
Wiesenthal never caught up with one prime target - Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous ``Angel of Death'' at Auschwitz, who died in South America in 1979.
Wiesenthal's quest for justice sometimes stirred controversy.
In Austria, which took decades to acknowledge its role in Nazi crimes, Wiesenthal was ignored and often insulted. In 1975, Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, himself a Jew, suggested Wiesenthal was part of a ``certain mafia'' seeking to besmirch Austria and even claimed Wiesenthal collaborated with Nazis to survive.
Ironically, Wiesenthal finally won esteem in Austria as a result of the international furor over the election of Kurt Waldheim as president in 1986 despite lying about his past as an officer in Hitler's army.
His refusal to call Waldheim a war criminal drew criticism from outsiders, but Austrians saw that he did not indiscriminately condemn everyone who took part in the Nazi war effort. Wiesenthal did demand Waldheim's resignation, seeing him as a symbol of those who suppressed Austria's role in the war, but he turned up no proof that Waldheim took part in war crimes.
Even after turning 90, Wiesenthal worked regularly at the small downtown office of his Jewish Documentation Center.
``The most important thing I have done is to fight against forgetting and to keep remembrance alive,'' he said in the 1999 interview with AP. ``It is very important to let people know that our enemies are not forgotten.''
Wiesenthal's wife, Cyla, died in 2003. A memorial service was scheduled in Vienna on Wednesday; funeral services will be in Israel.

Associated Press writer Ian Gregor in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Nazi Hunter Wiesenthal Dies at 96
The Jewish Journal of greater L.A
2005-09-20
Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust-survivor-turned-Nazi hunter who always spoke of justice, not vengeance, is dead at 96.
Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, his office announced Tuesday. Working with a small staff from his cramped three-room office, Wiesenthal sifted through tens of thousands of documents and followed countless leads, compiling archives that helped bring some 1,100 Nazi criminals to justice.
“Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The center, named for Wiesenthal, came to embody the thrust of his work as a Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding.
Officials at the center pledged this week to continue Wiesenthal’s work and also to maintain his legacy. Hier said he last spoke with Wiesenthal only two weeks ago. An exhibit on the Nazi hunter’s life has been set up at the center’s sister organization, the Museum of Tolerance, where a memorial service also is planned for next week.
Wiesenthal “was a hero who carried the torch of justice at a time when there was a paralysis of conscience over responsibility for the Holocaust,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and himself a Holocaust survivor. “No Nazi war criminal, big or small, was able to rest peacefully because he never knew when Wiesenthal’s voice of moral outrage would find him.... He brought a measure of justice to the 6 million victims of the Nazi genocide,” Foxman said.
Wiesenthal devoted more than half a century to tracking escaped Nazi war criminals. He and his wife lost 89 members of their families in the Holocaust.
“When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember,” Hier said. “He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of the 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.”
“Justice Not Vengeance,” which was the title of Wiesenthal’s autobiography, became his motto and guiding principle for a commitment he considered unending.
“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations,” he wrote in the 1990 autobiography. “I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived. The answer I have found for myself (and which need not necessarily be the answer for every survivor) is: I want to be their mouthpiece, I want to keep their memory alive, to make sure the dead live on in that memory.”
Wiesenthal was best known, perhaps, for his role in tracking down Adolf Eichmann, the Gestapo technocrat who had supervised the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Wiesenthal helped trace Eichmann to Argentina, where he was abducted by Israeli agents in 1960. Eichmann was tried in Israel in 1961, convicted of war crimes and hanged for his role in the slaughter of 6 million Jews.
Though Wiesenthal had begun gathering and preparing evidence on Nazi atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the U.S. Army immediately after World War II, it was the success in bringing Eichmann to justice that prompted him to open his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna and devote his life to hunting war criminals.
Among other high-profile fugitives he helped find were Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, and Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps in Poland, whom Wiesenthal helped locate in Brazil.
Over the decades he also spoke out loudly against neo-Nazism and racism.
“The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow that they will never rest,” he said in 1994. His prominent public stand sparked death threats and hate mail. In 1982, neo-Nazis left a bomb on his doorstep.
Although he maintained his office and staff in Vienna, Wiesenthal recently created something of a stir when he said that his work hunting Nazis was over. That’s not the position of the Wiesenthal Center, which Simon Wiesenthal did not direct. The center is still aiding international efforts to track down any last Nazi-era war criminals who could still be brought to justice. This month, a Spanish police unit was searching for one of the most-wanted figures still at large. A Spanish national police spokesman said new evidence points to the possibility that Aribert Heim, 91, may be living undercover somewhere near the Mediterranean coastal city of Alicante.
The Wiesenthal Center ranks Heim as the No. 2 most wanted Nazi war criminal, after Alois Brunner, an aide to Eichmann. During World War II, Heim murdered hundreds of people, largely via lethal injection, at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
But there’s no question that the job of tracking down living Nazi war criminals is timing out.
“I found the mass murderers I was looking for, and I have outlived all of them,” Wiesenthal said. “If there’s a few I didn’t look for, they are now too old and fragile to stand trial. My work is done,” he told an Austrian magazine.
Leaders around Los Angeles and world this week said that Wiesenthal’s work would have lasting, universal impact well beyond its value to Jews around the world.
“He never restricted the genocide numbers to 6 million and he always insisted that people remember that Jews were not the only ones who were exterminated,” said Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, who himself has worked to highlight Christians who rescued Jews in the Holocaust. Wiesenthal “felt it was important that people were accountable, that you simply don’t escape into the air and conceal your crimes and your obscenities.”
Though Wiesenthal’s zeal for justice was unflagging, Schulweis said, “he was not a man of vindictiveness. He was not vindictive.”
Schulweis said he had the honor of meeting Wiesenthal twice. In person, the man projected humility. He was “certainly not the Jewish Sherlock Holmes. There was something very modest. He was not concerned with solving any crimes to show how bright he was, but so that the killers of a dream should be brought to justice.”
California’s Austrian-born Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he and his wife “are deeply saddened at the passing of our great friend. Simon was a lion of a man, a survivor and a conqueror, a hero in every sense of the word. Simon turned the tables on the Nazi torturers and tormentors. Though he often seemed alone in its pursuit, he did not falter and he never wavered from his goal.... I will always be grateful that I knew one of the greatest men of our time.”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II knighted Wiesenthal last year, one in a long series of international honors testifying to the power and importance of his often uphill and once solitary battle.
“The extraordinary thing about Simon Wiesenthal is how little help he had, and how few resources, just a long memory and tremendous determination,” said John Macgregor, Britain’s ambassador to Austria, on the occasion of the knighthood.
Announcing the award, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw praised Wiesenthal’s “untiring service to the Jewish communities in the U.K. and elsewhere by helping to right at least some of the awful wrongs of the Holocaust.”
“If there is one name which symbolizes this vital coming to terms with the past it is Simon Wiesenthal’s,” Straw said.
Lord Greville Janner, chairman of Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust, said at the time that “no one in this world deserves it more than he.”
Wiesenthal was born on New Year’s Eve, 1908, in the town of Buczacz, now in Ukraine. He became an architect, married Cyla Mueller in 1936 and worked in an architectural office in Lvov.
After suffering under anti-Jewish purges following the nonaggression pact signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1939, both Wiesenthal and his wife were separated during the war and each barely survived the Holocaust before reuniting. They remained a devoted couple until Cyla Wiesenthal’s death in November 2003. Indeed, part of Simon Wiesenthal’s life story was a love story.
“Everyone who knew them at 17 had no doubt that the tall, dark Simon Wiesenthal and small, fair Cyla Mueller — so obviously besotted with each other — would one day marry,” Alison Leslie Gold wrote in “Fiet’s Vase and Other Stories of Survival: Europe 1939-1945,” which was published in 2003.
In 1941, invading Germans forced the Wiesenthals and other Jews into a ghetto, Gold wrote. “In fall of 1941, they were abruptly separated — without time for a real parting — and forced onto separate trucks, he with men, she with women.”
Early in 1942, the Nazi hierarchy formally decided on the “Final Solution,” the regime’s decision to exterminate all Jews. Throughout occupied Europe the genocide machine was put into operation. In August 1942, Wiesenthal’s mother was sent to the Belzec death camp. By September, most of his and his wife’s relatives were dead.
The Wiesenthals were deported to a newly built concentration camp — Janwska, then later transferred to a forced-labor camp in the same city. Wiesenthal realized that the Germans were targeting women and children, so he made plans to get his wife out. In exchange for maps and plans needed to blow up railroad yards and junctions, Gold said, Wiesenthal was able to obtain forged papers for Cyla, who was given a new identity as a Polish woman. She moved to Lublin and later to Warsaw.
She lived under the name Irena Kowalska in Warsaw for two years and later worked in Germany’s Rhineland region as a forced laborer without her true identity being discovered. Her blond hair helped her pass as a non-Jewish Pole.
The British liberated her from a labor camp in Solingen, Germany, in April 1945.
Wiesenthal escaped from the Ostbahn camp in October 1943, just before the Germans began liquidating all the inmates. In June 1944, he was recaptured and sent back to Janwska where he would almost certainly have been killed had the German eastern front not collapsed under the advancing Red Army. Knowing they would be sent into combat if they had no prisoners to justify their rear-echelon assignment, the SS guards at Janwska decided to keep the few remaining inmates alive. With 34 prisoners out of an original 149,000, the 200 guards joined the general retreat westward, picking up the entire population of the village of Chelmiec along the way to adjust the prisoner-guard ratio.
Few of the prisoners survived the westward trek through Plaszow, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald, which ended at Mauthausen in upper Austria. Weighing less than 100 pounds and lying helplessly in a barracks where the stench was so strong that even hardboiled SS guards would not enter, Wiesenthal was barely alive when Mauthausen was liberated by an American armored unit on May 5, 1945.
By then, Simon and Cyla each had been told by friends that the other was dead.
“I had no hope my wife was alive,” Wiesenthal told Gold. “When I thought of her, I thought of her body lying under a heap of rubble and I wondered whether they had found the bodies and buried her.”
It was at that point that Wiesenthal began gathering information about Nazi war crimes. Through a series of coincidences, the couple was reunited in Linz, Austria. Both called the reunion a miracle.
The Wiesenthals settled in Vienna and had a daughter, Pauline, in 1946.
Wiesenthal’s Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna was a nondescript, sparsely furnished three-room office with a staff of four, including Wiesenthal. Contrary to popular belief and to some dramatic films based loosely on his life, Wiesenthal did not usually track down Nazi fugitives himself. His chief task was gathering and analyzing information. In that work he was aided by a vast, informal, international network of friends, colleagues and sympathizers, including German World War II veterans, appalled by the horrors they’d witnessed. He even received tips from former Nazis with grudges against other former Nazis. A special branch of his Vienna office documents the activities of right-wing groups, neo-Nazis and similar organizations.
Wiesenthal was never a man who looked only at the past. He always perceived his mission as larger than helping Jews and the victims of yesterday.
“For your benefit, learn from our tragedy,” he said. “It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people. We saw it begin in Germany with Jews, but people from more than 20 other nations were also murdered. When I started this work, I said to myself, ‘I will look for the murderers of all the victims, not only the Jewish victims. I will fight for justice.’”
He once told the Jerusalem Post: “The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest.”
Correspondent David Finnigan, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Wiesenthal Center contributed to this article.




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