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"The Nazi Hunter"


Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal was born on the 31 December 1908 in Buczacz, which is now in the Lvov Oblast area of the Ukraine. His mother took the Wiesenthal family to Vienna, when the Cossacks burst into Buczacz in 1915.

 

Simon Wiesenthal attended a primary school in Bauerlgasse, Vienna, they returned to Buczacz as his mother wanted to re-marry. Simon Wiesenthal graduated from the Gymnasium in 1928 and applied to the Polytechnic Institute in Lvov. He was barred admission because of restrictions towards Jewish students.

 

Denied access Wiesenthal was accepted by the Technical University of Prague, from which he obtained a degree in architectural engineering in 1932. In 1936 Simon Wiesenthal married Cyla Muller, whom he had known from school and he found employment in an architectural office in Lvov. Their happiness was short lived.

                                                           

The Russian army occupied Lvov as part of the Nazi – Soviet “non-aggression” pact which divided a conquered Poland between the two major powers. Simon Wiesenthal’s stepfather was arrested by the NKVD – Soviet Secret Police and he eventually died in prison, his step-brother was shot and Wiesenthal became a mechanic in a bed-spring factory.

 

Street scene in Buczacz where Simon Wiesenthal was born

He bribed an NKVD commissar to save his wife, his mother and himself from deportation to Siberia. Following the German invasion of Russia in June 11941, eight days later the last Russians left Lvov and the inhabitants first saw German uniforms albeit worn by auxiliary troops, who initiated a series of pogroms against the Jewish population.

 

Simon Wiesenthal was in hiding on the afternoon of the 6 July 1941 in a cellar was arrested along with approximately one hundred professionals, such as lawyers, doctors and teachers to the Brygidki prison.

 

Those arrested were ordered to stand in several rows facing the wall and to fold their arms behind their necks. A Ukrainian started the execution by shooting from the left end of the first row, two of his helpers flung the bodies into wooden boxes, which were dragged away.

 

The executions lasted throughout the afternoon, the church bells rang, and the Ukrainians halted the slaughter with the words, “Enough for now, vespers.” Wiesenthal stood ten yards from the executioner.    

 A Ukrainian he used to know, by the name of Bodnar, wearing an armband of a Ukrainian auxiliary policeman, managed to extricate Wiesenthal from the prison claiming he was a Soviet spy, and he deportations from Lvov to Belzec took place from the 15 March 1942.

The largest deportation from Lvov to Belzec took place between the 10 August to the 23 August 1942,in this transport was Simon Wiesenthal’s sixty-three year old mother. She probably perished in the gas chambers at Belzec, his wife’s mother was shot dead on the steps of her house by a Ukrainian police auxiliary, shortly afterwards.

Germans troops in Lvov

 

In the Ostbahn Repair Works Wiesenthal was able to make contact with the Polish resistance, and in exchange for plans of the Railroad station, Cyla was able to escape and was provided with false papers, using the name Irene Kowalska. The Ostbahn repair shops came under the control of a German railway official called Heinrich Guenthert, Wiesenthal’s immediate supervisor Chief Inspector Adolf Kohlrautz.

 

They treated the Jews humanely, however, on the 20 April 1943, the safe haven for Wiesenthal and three other workers ended, they were collected early in the morning and taken to Janowska.

 

This was despite the two above mentioned Germans protesting, the SS paid no head to this, they wanted to murder some Jews to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday. The twenty or so Jews selected by the Nazis were made to stand in the so-called “tube” a two meter wide corridor between barbed wire fences. At the end of the so called “tube” was a sandpit into which the bodies fell.

 

Wiesenthal was rescued from certain death by his German supervisors Kohlrautz drove to Janowska on Guenthert’s instructions and rescued Wiesenthal from the “Tube,” by demanding the return of their painter, in order to paint a banner celebrating the Fuhrer’s birthday.

 

Modern photo of the Janowska Campwhere Wiesenthal was almost murdered

In 1943 his Nazi Supervisor Kohlrautz encouraged Wiesenthal to escape and he issued a pass authorising him to buy painting materials in Lvov. Wiesenthal easily lost his Ukrainian guard by leaving a stationery shop by the back door.

 

He was able to hide in a friend’s house until one evening in April 1943 when a German soldier was shot dead in the street, and SS troops and Gestapo men searched adjacent houses for missing weapons, and found Wiesenthal instead.

 

On the 15 April 1943 Simon Wiesenthal attempted to commit suicide on his way to the Gestapo, by slashing his wrists, with a concealed razor blade. The Gestapo nursed him back to health, in order to execute him, which was often the way the Nazis operated.

 

 Freidrich Warzog at Janowska

One day a Soviet airplane was shot down over Sapieha Street and exploded in the Gestapo building, during the smoke and confusion Wiesenthal was able to run across a yard and mingle with another group of Jews destined for deportation.

 

The destination was not however far, he found himself back in Janowska Camp again, where the brutal camp commandant SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Freidrich Warzog welcomed him back, with the words, “one of my regulars” and the “prodigal son returned home.”

 

Simon Wiesenthal and some other inmates decided to try and escape on the night of 16 July 1944 as the Russians advance neared. One of his fellow escapees was called Lola, whose sister had sheltered him and her brother –in-law Josef Busch, before they were discovered in April 1943.

 

One of his fellow escapees possibly Moldauer cut a hole in the barbed wire, Lola and the others managed to escape, but the guards spotted the escapers and opened fire. Wiesenthal made it back to his hut somehow and when the Nazis had counted the prisoners, twenty-seven inmates were led to the “Tube” and the waiting pit, for execution.

 

After waiting for hours SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Warzog who made a surprise announcement the SS Police Leader of Galicia Katzmann had decided to “save their lives and that they would be leaving Janowska with the SS guards.” Shortly afterwards the SS evacuated the prisoners and so began the trek westwards, this was an arduous journey through a number of camps such as Plasow, Gross Rosen and Buchenwald.

 

Survivors from a sub-camp at Mauthausen

From Buchenwald three thousand internees were loaded onto open lorries on the 3 February 1945 and transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. When the convoy reached Mauthausen on the 7 February 1945, only 1200 of the 3000 men who had left Buchenwald concentration camp were still alive, including Simon Wiesenthal.     

   

Wiesenthal lay in Hut –B of the aptly named death block waiting for death, on the 5 May 1945 weighing only about 110 pounds he staggered outside the barrack to greet the first American tank that came to liberate the camp. Having survived the holocaust a new chapter started in the life of Simon Wiesenthal, he sought out the American Officer in charge, to raise a complaint and stepped through a door marked “War Crimes” and shortly after began working there.

 

Wiesenthal’s immediate supervisor was a Captain Taracusio, a professor of international law in Cambridge Massachusetts, who greatly influenced Wiesenthal’s views about dealing with War Criminals.

 

Wiesenthal did not seek revenge, he sought justice, he began gathering and preparing evidence on Nazi atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the United States Army. He also worked for the Army’s Office of Strategic Services and Counter –Intelligence Corps, and headed the Jewish Central Committee of the American Zone of Austria, a welfare and relief organisation.

 

Simon & Cyla Wiesenthal

Late in 1945 he and Cyla were re-united, each thought the other had died and in 1946 their only child Paulinka was born. Wiesenthal ended his association with the United States Army in 1947 and with thirty volunteers he opened the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre in Linz, Austria.

 

The purpose of this centre was to assemble evidence for future war crimes trial, but with the onset of the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union intensified, interest in prosecuting Nazi war criminals waned and the volunteers felt dispirited.

 

In 1954 the office in Linz was closed and the evidence Wiesenthal and his volunteers had accumulated was passed to the archives in Yad Vashem, apart from his files on Adolf Eichmann, the RSHA Jewish expert.

 

In April 1959 Simon Wiesenthal noticed an obituary notice for Frau Maria Eichmann in a Linz newspaper, and amongst the mourners was listed Vera Eichmann, in addition to this in February 1960 a newspaper carried the death notice of Eichmann’s father Adolf Karl, and Vera Eichmann and the boys were listed amongst the mourners.

 

Wiesenthal also passed this latest information onto the Israeli’s who were now pursuing Eichmann with a lot more vigour. Eichmann was captured in Buenos Aries on the 11 May 1960 and brought to Israel to stand trial for war crimes. Eichmann was found guilty and was executed in Ramleh prison, Jerusalem on the 31 May 1962.

 

 Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank

Wiesenthal encouraged by the capture and justice meted out to Eichmann, re-opened the Jewish Documentation Centre, this time in Vienna, and concentrated solely on the hunting of Nazi war criminals.

 

Among his high priority cases was Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, the fourteen year old German –Jewish girl who was in hiding in a secret Amsterdam attic with her family between 1942 and 1944, and who eventually died in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.

 

Her diary published by her father Otto Frank in 1947 has become a symbol against anti-Semitism. Wiesenthal located Silberbauer, who was working as a police inspector in Austria in 1963. Silberbauer confessed when confronted said, “I arrested Anne Frank.”

 

The next high profile Nazi war criminal Wiesenthal helped bring to justice was Franz Stangl the former commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka death camps in Poland. Wiesenthal was alerted to the fact that Stangl was living in Brazil working in a Volkswagen factory.

 

Franz Murer, Nazi criminal caught by Wiesenthal

Stangl was arrested in Brazil on the 28 February 1967 and was extradited to the then West Germany, where he was tried for the co-responsibility for the mass murder of 900,000 Jews at Treblinka. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on the 22 October 1970. He died of heart failure in Dusseldorf prison on the 28 June 1971.  

 

The same year that Stangl was arrested, Simon Wiesenthal published his first book – “The Murderers Among Us” and whilst in America to promote the book he announced that he had found Mrs Hermine Ryan, nee Braunsteiner, a housewife living in Queens, a suburb of New York.

 

Braunsteiner was an SS female guard at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland and had supervised the murder of hundreds of children at the camp, during the war. On the 6 August 1973 Hermine Braunsteiner was extradited from the USA and taken to the then West Germany, to stand trial for war crimes committed in the Majdanek (Lublin) during the war.

 

1970 photo of Franz Stangl in police custody

The trial opened in Dusseldorf of ten male and five female former camp guards commenced on the 26 November 1975. The trial dragged on for five long years and on the 30 June 1981 Hermine Braunsteiner was sentenced to life imprisonment.

 

It is remarkable to think that Simon Wiesenthal with a small staff of four people, in a sparsely furnished three-room office, could track down so many major war criminals. In this work he was aided by a vast informal international network of friends, colleagues. When his painstaking work is complete, he hands the dossiers over to the appropriate authorities, if they do not pursue with vigour, then he sought out the media, often with outstanding results. 

 

For his work Simon Wiesenthal was honoured by many Governments for his unceasing work on brining war criminals to justice, he was awarded decorations from the Austrian and French resistance movements, the Dutch Freedom Medal, the Luxembourg Freedom Medal, the United Nations League for the Help of Refugees Award, the United States Congressional Gold Medal presented to him by US President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and the French Legion of Honour which he received in 1986.

 

Wiesenthal acted as a consultant for the film “The Odessa File” released by Paramount in 1974 and “The Boys From Brazil” released by Twentieth Century Fox in 1978. Also in 1981 the Wiesenthal Centre produced the Academy Award winning documentary Genocide, narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and the late Orson Welles, which was introduced by Simon Wiesenthal.

 

Simon Wiesenthal [Nazi Hunter]

Hunting war criminals carries some risks Wiesenthal received numerous anonymous threats and insults. In June 1982 a bomb exploded at the front door of his house, causing a great deal of damage, fortunately no one was hurt.

 

Since then Wiesenthal’s house and office were guarded by armed policemen. One German and several Austrian neo-Nazis were arrested for the bombing, the main perpetrator a German, was sentenced to five years in prison.

 

Wiesenthal said: “When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren’t able to kill millions of people and get away with it.” 

Simon Wiesenthal died on the 20 September 2005 at his home in Vienna, aged ninety-six.

 

 

The Capture of Eichmann

By Paul Vallely

Wednesday, 21 September 2005


It was a postcard that started it all. It was 1954 and it had come from a friend who had moved after the war to Argentina. It read: "I saw that dirty pig Eichmann... He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company." Simon Wiesenthal turned it in his hand and stared in disbelief. He had been waiting nine years for this.

 

Simon Wiesenthal died this week, peacefully in his sleep, at the age of 96. It was not a privilege accorded to many of his contemporaries. Wiesenthal was one of that generation of European Jewry decimated by the "final solution" of Adolf Hitler in which 11 million people were exterminated, six million of them Jews. And if the horror of such genocide is blunted rather than sharpened by such huge numbers, consider this: Simon Wiesenthal lost 89 members of his family in the Holocaust. Among them were his mother, whom the young architect had watched being transported away for execution.

But he had survived. And after the death camp in which he was incarcerated was liberated, Wiesenthal - like so many victims of Nazism - dedicated himself to tracking down those responsible. Top of his list was Adolf Eichmann.

The experiences of Simon Wiesenthal and Adolf Eichmann are like mirror images of that terrible time. Eichmann was the "Transportation Administrator" responsible for the logistics of the extermination of millions of people. He had been at the notorious Wannsee Conference in 1942 when the cream of Germany's planners, administrators and logisticians sat around and calmly set up the mechanics of the mass murder of "undesirables" - Jews, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals, communists and the mentally and physically handicapped. Eichmann was the man in charge of the trains to the death camps in Poland.

For the next two years, Eichmann performed his duties with considerable zeal. He is known to have often bragged that he had personally sent more than five million Jews to their deaths on his trains. When in 1945, fearing the war was lost, his bosses ordered Jewish extermination be halted - and all the evidence destroyed - Eichmann blithely ignored his instructions from the SS chief Heinrich Himmler and proudly continued his work in Hungary against official orders.

Simon Wiesenthal was the object of the process of which Eichmann was author. He was first sent to a concentration camp in 1941, outside Lvov, Ukraine. It was the first of a dozen Nazi camps in which he was imprisoned, five of them being death camps, his website claims. 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 back to Janwska, but escaped death as his SS guards retreated westward with their prisoners from the Soviet Red Army.

In May 1945 he was in Mauthausen death camp in Austria when US forces arrived. Wiesenthal weighed just seven stone when he was freed. He cried from loneliness in front of his liberators - and then dictated to them a list of 91 names of camp officials, more than 70 of whom he subsequently tracked down.

As the war ended Eichmann went into hiding, spending a year inside a Catholic monastery in Italy. Wiesenthal meanwhile decided to dedicate "a few years" to seeking justice and signed up to work with the Allies gathering war crime evidence.

Then in 1947, when Eichmann fled to South America using a false name, Wiesenthal set up an independent Jewish Documentation Centre in Lidz to assemble evidence for future trials. He had bridled at obeying American orders. "I considered that my self-appointed task was holy," he later wrote, "and my determination became the more pronounced, the more I learned how Jews had been abused."

That year Eichmann's wife sought to have her husband declared dead. Wiesenthal was suspicious. He knew many SS men who had been pronounced dead had re-emerged under different names and remarried their own "widows". He discovered the alleged witness to the death was Eichmann's brother-in-law, and stopped the death certificate from being approved.

But in the year that followed, the Cold War intensified. Both the United States and the Soviet Union lost interest in prosecuting former Nazis. Wiesenthal's volunteers drifted away. In 1954 his money ran out. His chief benefactor, a Swiss Jew, had died. He was forced to take a job working for a Jewish vocational training organisation and close his office in Linz. All the files were sent to the Yad Vashem archives in Israel.

But Simon Wiesenthal kept one back - the dossier on Adolf Eichmann, the inconspicuous technocrat who had become the chief executioner of the Third Reich. Wiesenthal never gave up on the pursuit of the elusive Eichmann. In 1953, he had heard that Eichmann was in Argentina from people who thought they had spoken to him there. He passed this information on to the Israeli secret service, Mossad, through the Israeli embassy in Vienna. But the trail had gone cold. Then came the postcard.

Yet though Wiesenthal excitedly contacted Mossad again, and also got in touch with Nahum Goldmann, the president of the World Jewish Congress, nothing happened. The FBI had received information that Eichmann was in Damascus. It was not until 1959 that Israel was informed by Germany that Eichmann was in Buenos Aires living under the alias of Ricardo Klement.

A covert operation was organised. A team of undercover Mossad agents kidnapped the former Nazi and flew him aboard an El Al jet from Argentina to Israel. When the Israeli prime minister, David Ben Gurion, announced Eichmann's capture to the Knesset on 25 May, 1960 he received a standing ovation.

Before an Israeli court Eichmann was indicted on 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity. The trial became an international cause célèbre with news channels across the globe allowed to broadcast the full proceedings live. Viewers saw a nondescript man, sitting in a bulletproof glass booth, who kept insisting he was only "following orders". The political philosopher Hannah Arendt, who was covering the trial, coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to make the point that the chief architect of the Holocaust was not a monster but an ordinary little man doing his job like the rest of us. Eichmann was convicted on all counts, sentenced to death and hanged just after midnight on 1 June 1962.

Simon Wiesenthal, meanwhile, wrote a book entitled I Hunted Eichmann. It came out even before the Nazi was executed. Its boastful title - which the contents did little to substantiate - made its author, after years of obscure detective work, an overnight celebrity. Because of the cloak of secrecy which Mossad had cast over its kidnapping operation there was no-one to offer an alternative view.

Wiesenthal took full advantage of the publicity to press his cause and was able to return to full-time Nazi-hunting on the back of the Eichmann case. He reopened the Jewish Documentation Centre, this time in Vienna, and established a web of informants, including veterans of various intelligence services. They found not only the war criminals but also the witnesses whose testimony, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Vienna now says, has helped bring 1,100 former Nazis to trial over the past 50 years.

Wiesenthal's career has not been without controversy. He was accused of egocentricity by those who claimed he took more than his fair share of credit for the arrest of Eichmann.

In 1991 the Jerusalem Post disclosed that the former Mossad chief Isser Harel had written an unpublished manuscript which claimed that Wiesenthal not only "had no role whatsoever" in Eichmann's apprehension, but in fact "had endangered the entire Eichmann operation and aborted the planned capture of the evil Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele". Harel claimed that he wrote the manuscript out of frustration at the amount of credit Wiesenthal was claiming for the capture of Eichmann and declined to publish it only because that might give succour to anti-semites.

That was not all. Neal Sher, head of the US government's Office of Special Investigations which investigates war crimes, received a demand from Wiesenthal that the OSI investigate suspected war criminals living in the United States.

Sher replied: "Few of your allegations have resulted in active ongoing investigations ... the bottom line is that ... no allegation which originated from your office has resulted in a court filing by the OSI." And Sher's successor Eli Rosenbaum, wrote: "In sum, Wiesenthal's roles in the biggest Nazi cases of all - Mengele, Bormann, and in all likelihood, Eichmann as well - were studies in ineptitude, exaggeration, and self-glorification."

A fellow Nazi-hunter, Tuviah Friedman, accused Wiesenthal of numerous self-aggrandizing lies and of making himself rich from the Eichmann affair. "Simon Wiesenthal wrote in his books that he had been instrumental in the arrest of 1,100 Nazi murderers," wrote Friedman. "I would honour him if he could prove but 100."

To his credit, Simon Wiesenthal posts the accusation on his centre's website for all to see. Eichmann's capture, he once admitted "was a teamwork of many who did not know each other". And he added: "I do not know if and to what extent reports I sent to Israel were used."

But in one sense all that is irrelevant. Many of the Nazis he brought to trial were beyond dispute, such as Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps in Poland, who liked to dress in white riding clothes, and was responsible for the extermination of nearly one million people.

Then there was Hermine Ryan who supervised the killings of hundreds of children at Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin in Poland. The doggedness with which Simon Wiesenthal hunted down such individuals has assumed a legendary status.

"When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember," Rabbi Marvin Hier, his successor at the centre, said yesterday. "He did not forget. He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of history's greatest crime to justice."

Simon Wiesenthal spent the past 50 years not just hunting war criminals. He spoke out against racism everywhere, and held out the Jewish experience as a lesson for humanity. To many his name has become a symbol of human conscience. Whatever the facts, in the end it is for this that he will be remembered.

Four more Nazis caught by Wiesenthal

KARL JOSEF SILBERBAUER
The Gestapo sergeant-major who arrested teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family. Born in Vienna, he served in the Austrian Army before joining the Gestapo. After the war, he rejoined the Viennese police force. In 1958, Simon Wiesenthal was challenged by a group of protesters at a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank to prove her existence by finding the man who had arrested her. Silberbauer was arrested in 1963.

HERMINE RYAN
Hermine Ryan was a housewife living in Queens, New York, until Wiesenthal accused her of being Hermine Braunsteiner - "The Stamping Mare" - a supervisor at Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin in Poland. Her sadism took many forms, including killing women by stamping on them with steel-studded jackboots and beating others to death with her whip. She was given a life sentence in 1980.

FRANZ STANGL
Commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps in Poland and responsible for the extermination of around 900,000 men, women and children. At the end of the war he escaped to Italy where he was helped by some Vatican officials to reach Syria on a Red Cross passport. Three years later he fled to Brazil where he was tracked down by Wiesenthal. Found guilty in 1970 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

DINKO SAKIC
Commander of the Croatian concentration camp Jasenovac, known as the "Auschwitz of the Balkans", where up to 85,000 people died. The Wiesenthal Center compiled a dossier on Sakic, accusing him of taking part personally in gruesome killings. He was extradited to Croatia from Argentina, where he had lived for 50 years, after admitting on television he was a Nazi. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1999.

... and two that got away

HEINRICH MULLER
Chief of the Gestapo from 1939 until the end of the war. All traces of Muller disappeared on 29 April 1945. It was rumoured he had defected to the Soviet secret service, escaped to the Middle East or Latin America, or that he was given a new identity by the US intelligence service, and relocated to America.

JOSEF MENGELE 
An SS officer and doctor at Auschwitz, where from 1943 he carried out "medical experiments" that used human beings - many of them twins - as guinea pigs. After the war he escaped to South America. Some reports claim he drowned in Paraguay in 1978, others that he died in Brazil in 1979.

The Anne Frank Case

 Simon Wiesenthal's Search for the Truth In October 1958 renowned Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal received a disturbing phone call at his home in Linz, Austria. He rushed to the Landes Theater, where a group of teenagers were disrupting a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank. Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor, had made it his life work to ensure that Anne Frank and others who had died in the Holocaust were not forgotten. He was deeply concerned that many local teenagers seemed to agree with the neo-Nazi protesters that Anne's diary was a hoax. Determined to find definitive proof that the diary was authentic, Wiesenthal began a five-year-long search for the Gestapo officer who arrested the Frank family.

Nazi-Hunter Simon Wiesenthal Knighted


The 95-year-old Holocaust survivor is honoured for a life's work, reports Sean O'Neill

SIMON Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who has devoted his life to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen yesterday.

The Foreign Office said the award was made "in recognition of a lifetime of service to humanity".

Mr Wiesenthal, 95, uncovered the evidence that led to the execution of Adolf Eichmann, who supervised the implementation of Hitler's Final Solution. He also tracked down Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, the schoolgirl whose diary became world-famous.

Despite his age, Mr Wiesenthal still works, attending the sparsely-furnished rooms from which he and a staff of three run the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna.

His mission is aided by the network of Simon Wiesenthal centres in the United States, Europe and Israel.

The honorary KBE is intended to recognise the value of Mr Wiesenthal's work to Jewish communities from Austria, Germany and central Europe, who made their post-war homes in Britain

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, [Straw (right) with friend] said: "Mr Wiesenthal has been untiring in his service to the Jewish communities in the UK and elsewhere by helping to right at least some of the awful wrongs of the Holocaust.

"If there is one name which symbolises this vital coming to terms with the past it is Simon Wiesenthal's."

Mr Wiesenthal was born in Buczacz in the Ukraine in December 1908 and became an architect in Lvov after training at Prague University.

He married his wife, Cyla, in 1936 and lived happily until 1939 when the Nazi-Soviet pact saw the Red Army invade Lvov and begin a persecution of the Jewish community. When the Nazis arrived in 1941, his family was sent to a concentration camp and then into forced labour.

David Irving comments:

ONLY the meanest spirit could possibly see Jack Straw's award of the knighthood in our helpless Queen's name as a cynical move designed to attract back to the Labour party the votes that might otherwise flock to the Jewish chief of the opposition Conservative Party.
   The real reason is quite clearly to boost the Labour party's depleted election coffers, which are traditionally dependent on slush funds from Israel brought back by Blair's bagman Lord Levy from Israel. Hence Tony Blair's mealy mouthed refusal -- most recently at Question Time in Parliament last week -- to suggest that Israel too, after Iraq and Libya, should have her weapons of mass destruction brought under United Nations control.
   Yes, what goes around comes around: in this case under that useful phrase, Instrumentalisation of the Holocaust.
   Which means dining out on it, M'lud.

Mr Wiesenthal believes that 89 members of his and his wife's extended families died in the genocide. Mrs Wiesenthal survived, with the help of the Polish resistance, because her blonde hair allowed her to pass herself off as an Aryan.

She was separated from her husband, who was found barely alive when American troops liberated Mauthausen camp in Austria in May 1945.

As soon as his health was restored, Mr Wiesenthal began gathering evidence on Nazi atrocities to help the US army's war crimes investigators. Late in 1945 he was reunited with his wife.

In the 1950s the Cold War dampened the Allies' enthusiasm for Nazi-hunting. Mr Wiesenthal passed his files to the Israeli authorities, save for one. He doggedly pursued tip-offs thatEichmann was in Argentina, leading to the Gestapo technocrat's arrest, trial and execution.

Silberbauer was found working as a police inspector in Austria. Franz Strangl, [sic: Stangl] commandant ofTreblinka camp, was traced to Brazil after three years of investigative work and imprisoned in West Germany in 1967.

Mr Wiesenthal was a consultant on the 1978 film The Boys from Brazil in which Sir Laurence Olivier played a character styled on the Nazi-hunter.

Mr Wiesenthal's reputation brought him constant death threats and hate mail and in 1982 a bomb exploded at the front door of his home.

It has also gained him recognition from governments around the world, including the United States Congressional Gold Medal and the Legion d'Honneur.

Mr Wiesenthal was unavailable for comment yesterday but his achievements might be summed up by a remark he made 10 years ago: "The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow that they will never rest."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.

 

Nazi Hunters Publish Most-Wanted List

The Simon Wiesenthal Center continues to pursue Nazis, publishinga list of the most wanted ones ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff intends to pursue and bring to justice every last Nazi, no matter how old they might be. Speaking with the Associated Press about those who claim the Nazis are now so old, asking “why bother?” Zuroff called such a response indicative of misplaced sympathy syndrome - a reluctance to go after war crimes suspects just because they're old. "I think we have to pursue every last one of them until not one of them is left alive," he said.

The center has opened 202 new investigations over the past year. "[T]he new investigations have tripled in the last year, but the number of convictions is down and we face serious political problems in many different countries," Zuroff told AP. "The absence of political will to prosecute or devote the energy and resources to do so are the major obstacles of the final prosecution of Nazi war criminals."  

The Most-Wanted List


Dr. Aribert Heim - Location unknown - Was a doctor in Sachsenhausen (1940), Buchenwald (1941) and Mauthausen (1941) concentration camps. Murdered hundreds of camp inmates by lethal injection in Mauthausen. He disappeared in 1962 prior to planned prosecution; current whereabouts unknown but strong evidence that he is still alive.

Ivan Demjanjuk – USA - Participated in mass murder of Jews in Sobibor death camp; also served in Majdanek death camp and Trawniki SS-training camp. Denaturalized in USA; ordered deported from USA; under investigation in Poland.
 
Dr. Sandor Kepiro - Hungary - Hungarian gendarmerie officer; participated in mass murder of over 1,200 civilians in Novi Sad, Serbia. Discovered in 2006 in framework of “Operation: Last Chance”; was originally convicted but never punished in Hungary in 1944 and indicted again, in absentia, in 1946; Hungary refused to implement his original sentence but has opened a new criminal investigation against him which has not yet been completed more than a year after its initiation.

Milivoj Ašner – Austria - Played an active role in persecution and the deportation to death of hundreds of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies as Police chief of Slavonska Po┼żega, Croatia. He was also discovered in 2004 in the framework of “Operation: Last Chance” and indicted by Croatia. In 2005 Croatia requested his extradition from Austria; Austria refused, ostensibly because Ašner held Austrian citizenship. When it emerged that he had lost his Austrian citizenship, Austria still refused, on medical grounds.

Soeren Kam - Germany - Participated in the murder of anti-Nazi Danish newspaper editor Carl Henrik Clemmensen; stole the population registry of the Danish Jewish Community to facilitate the roundup and subsequent deportation of Danish Jews to Nazi concentration camps, where many were murdered. Kam was indicted in Denmark for the murder of Clemmensen, but a German court refused to approve his extradition to stand trial in Copenhagen. At the request of the Wiesenthal Center, the Danish judicial authorities are conducting an investigation of his role in the deportation of those Jews.

Heinrich Boere – Germany - Murdered three Dutch civilians as a member of the Silbertanne Waffen-SS death squad. Boere was sentenced to death in absentia in Holland in 1949 after his escape to Germany. Germany until recently refused to extradite him or prosecute him; in April 2008 he was indicted in Germany for his crimes. 

Karoly (Charles) Zentai – Australia - Participated in manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944. He was discovered in 2004 during “Operation: Last Chance;” Hungary issued an international arrest warrant against him and has asked for his extradition from Australia in 2005; Zentai is currently appealing his extradition to Hungary.

Mikhail Gorshkow – Estonia - Participated in murder of Jews in Belarus; denaturalized in USA and under investigation in Estonia.

Algimantas Dailide – Germany - Arrested Jews murdered by Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators. He was deported from the US and convicted by Lithuania, which has hereto refused to implement his sentence of imprisonment.

Harry Mannil – Venezuela - Arrested Jews and Communists executed by Nazis and Estonian collaborators. He was cleared by investigation in Estonia and barred from entry to US.

The Hunt For Dr. Heim
Number one of the Wiesenthal Center’s list of wanted Nazis is Dr. Aribert Heim, who worked at the medical section of the Mauthausen concentration camp, in Lintz, Austria. Medical staff later testified that he killed a young Jewish man simply because he “needed [his] head because of its perfect teeth." He proceeded to boil the head while harvesting organs for experimental use.

"Heim would be 93 today and we have good reason to believe he is still alive," Zuroff told AP. The center plans to launch a media campaign in South America, Germany and Austria this summer, offering a $485,000 reward for Heim's arrest.

Heim has already been convicted in absentia for hundreds of murders. Tips as to his whereabouts have reached the Wiesenthal Center from Austria, Germany, Uruguay, Spain, Switzerland, Chile and Brazil over the years.


Germany Opens Files
Germany opened the world's biggest files of Nazi documentation of crimes committed during the Holocaust, as well as information about the victims Wednesday.

The collection, under the jurisdiction of the Red Cross and called the International Tracing Service (ITS), contains 50 million records on some 17 million victims of the Nazis. The documents include jailing orders, death certificates, Gestapo files and information about inmates of concentration camps.

Prior to Wednesday, only Nazis and their relatives were allowed access to the files. Germany worried how opening the files would affect those still living mentioned in them. It has not reportedly received guarantees that information about the living will remain restricted. 

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