Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Simon Wiesenthal dead.|
Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down numerous Nazi war criminals following World War II then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.
Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, Austria, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
"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," Hier said.
Wiesenthal, who had been an architect before World War II, changed his life's mission after surviving the Holocaust by becoming a voice for the 6 million Jews who died during the onslaught.
"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.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday that Wiesenthal "brought justice to those who had escaped justice."
"He acted on behalf of 6 million people who could no longer defend themselves," Regev said. "The state of Israel, the Jewish people and all those who oppose racism recognized Simon Wiesenthal's unique contribution to making our planet a better place."
Calls of sympathy poured into Wiesenthal's office in Vienna, where one of his longtime assistants, Trudi Mergili, struggled to deal with her grief.
"It was expected," she said. "But it is still so hard."
Wiesenthal's quest began after the Americans liberated the Mauthausen death camp in Austria where Wiesenthal was a prisoner in May 1945. It was his fifth death camp among the dozen Nazi camps in which he was imprisoned, and he
weighed just 99 pounds (45 kilograms) when he was freed.
He said he quickly realized "there is no freedom without justice," and decided to dedicate "a few years" to seeking justice.