- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down numerous Nazi war criminals after World War II then spent decades fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice, died yesterday. He was 96.

Mr. Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, Austria, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, 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,” Mr. Hier told the Associated Press.

Mr. Wiesenthal, who had been an architect before World War II, changed his life’s mission after the war, dedicating himself to tracking down Nazi war criminals and to being a voice for the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.

Through his work, he said, about 1,100 Nazi war criminals were brought 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,” Mr. Wiesenthal once said.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said yesterday that Mr. Wiesenthal “brought justice to those who had escaped justice.”

Mr. Wiesenthal’s quest began after the Americans liberated the Mauthausen death camp in Austria where he was a prisoner in May 1945. He weighed just 99 pounds when he was freed. Mr. Wiesenthal said he quickly realized “there is no freedom without justice,” and decided to dedicate “a few years” to seeking justice.

“It became decades,” he added.

Mr. Wiesenthal was born on Dec. 31, 1908, to Jewish merchants in Buczacz, a small town near the present-day Ukrainian city of Lvov 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 Lvov to open an architectural office. Then the Russians and the Germans occupied Lvov and the terror began.

After the war ended, Mr. Wiesenthal tirelessly pursued fugitive Nazi war criminals.

He was perhaps best known for his role in tracking down Adolf Eichmann, the onetime SS leader who organized the extermination of the Jews. Eichmann was found in Argentina, abducted by Israeli agents in 1960, tried and hanged for crimes committed against the Jews.

Mr. Wiesenthal’s long quest for justice also stirred controversy.

In 1975, then-Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, himself a Jew, suggested Mr. Wiesenthal was part of a “certain mafia” seeking to besmirch Austria. Mr. Kreisky even claimed Mr. Wiesenthal collaborated with Nazis to survive.

Mr. Wiesenthal received more distinguished foreign awards than any other living Austrian citizen. In 1995, the city of Vienna made him an honorary citizen.

Mr. Wiesenthal’s wife, Cyla, died in November 2003.

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