Simon Wiesenthal

Writer / Activist

Born: 31 December 1908
Died: 20 September 2005
Birthplace: Buczacz, Austria-Hungary
Best known as: The Nazi hunter who nabbed Adolf Eichmann
Simon Wiesenthal was the world's most famous "Nazi hunter," a Jewish World War II survivor of German concentration camps who spent his life tracking down war criminals and fighting for human rights. Trained as an architectural engineer, he and his wife were sent by Nazis to labor camps in 1941. His wife escaped in 1942; he escaped in 1943 but was recaptured in June of 1944. At the end of the war he was in the Austrian prison camp Mauthausen, were he was among those liberated by the United States Army in May of 1945. Wiesenthal worked with the U.S. Army after the war, collecting evidence for the prosecution of war crimes. In 1947 he founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Austria and began collecting what is now the world's largest archive of witness testimony and other evidence of Nazi war crimes. He closed the Center in 1954, but kept working to gather information. In 1960 Israeli forces captured Adolf Eichmann, a former Nazi official who had been in charge of shipping prisoners, mostly Jews, to camps throughout Europe. Eichmann was taken back to Israel, where his trial, conviction and execution drew international attention; Wiesenthal became known as the man who had tracked him down. Wiesenthal re-opened the Jewish Documentation Center and spent the rest of his career gathering evidence on former Nazis and presenting it to government agencies, ultimately taking credit for bringing more than 1,000 cases to war criminals to justice.
Extra credit: Wiesenthal and his wife, who escaped separately from prison camp, were reunited in 1945 and stayed together until her death in 2003; that same year Wiesenthal announced his retirement... Always a controversial figure, critics of Wiesenthal included revisionist historians, Austrian politicians and, later, an Israeli agent who claimed Wiesenthal had overstated his role in Eichmann's capture... He published his memoirs, The Murderers Among Us, in 1967... Wiesenthal was granted an honorary British knighthood (KBE) in 2004... The documentation center in Austria operates separately from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California.

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