Simon Wiesenthal

(1908—2005) Austrian Jewish investigator of Nazi war crimes

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Austrian Jewish war crimes investigator, whose activities have brought to justice many perpetrators of atrocities against the Jewish people during the Nazi era.

Born in Buczacz, Poland, he trained as an architect but subsequently spent three years (1942–45) in Nazi labour and concentration camps. Miraculously both he and his wife survived the war and Wiesenthal began his long campaign to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. He aided the US army in gathering evidence for the war trials and in 1947 opened the Documentation Centre on the fate of the Jews and their Persecutors in Linz, Austria. The centre, which also helped survivors of the camps as well as contributing to the war trials, closed in 1954, but Wiesenthal continued to work alongside Israeli agents to seek out unprosecuted Nazis. In 1959 he played a major role in the discovery of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. In 1961 he opened the Jewish Documentation Centre – also called the Wiesenthal Centre – in Vienna and continued to track down Nazi criminals when other countries had ceased to pursue their cases. Although his refusal to consider any kind of amnesty for now ageing Nazis has caused heated moral debates over the years, with some critics suggesting that such a desire for retribution is as undesirable as the evil it aims to expose, Wiesenthal has received many international honours for his work, including the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. His books about his experiences include I Hunted Eichmann (1961) and Every Day Remembrance Day (1986).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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