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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:36, September 21, 2005
Key facts about Wiesenthal
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Simon Wiesenthal was the world's most intrepid hunter of Nazi war criminals, bringing more than a thousand to trial in a global campaign to ensure no one forgot the horror of Adolf Hitler's treatment of the Jews.

Here are some facts about Wiesenthal, who died in Vienna at the age of 96 yesterday, according to a website statement from a Vienna-based centre that bears his name:

A Jew, Wiesenthal travelled the world into his old age, lecturing on the Holocaust and as director of the Jewish Documentation Centre collecting data on the whereabouts of the last unpunished villains of Nazi Germany.

Those he helped to catch included major figures such as Adolf Eichmann, one of Hitler's chief henchmen in the campaign to exterminate Jews, and Franz Stangl, ex-commandant of the Treblinka death camp.

He said on his 75th birthday in 1983 that he could never rest until he had hunted down the last of the great living killers of the Third Reich "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele and former SS Colonel Walter Rauff.

Rauff died of cancer aged 77 in Chile in May 1984, but Wiesenthal went on searching for Mengele until in June 1985 a body exhumed in Brazil was identified as that of the man Wiesenthal said exterminated 400,000 Jews, half of them children, as doctor at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

When Hitler attacked Russia in 1941 Wiesenthal was among millions of Jews forced into concentration camps. Altogether the Nazis were estimated to have murdered 11 million civilians, including 6 million Jews.

Wiesenthal spent four and a half years during World War II in German concentration camps, including Buchenwald in Bavaria and Mauthausen in Austria. He slashed his wrists in a suicide attempt during this period to avoid torture. Some 89 members of his own family were killed by the Nazis.

Wiesenthal was born on December 31, 1908, son of a wealthy Jewish businessman at Buczacz in Galicia, a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with a large Jewish population. He attended elementary school in Vienna and high school in Buczacz.

Asked why he spent his life hunting Nazis, he once said: "I am not a practising Jew. But I do believe."

In 1961 Wiesenthal founded the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna which, helped by branches around the world and a network of former concentration camp inmates, was devoted to tracking down Nazis who escaped trial.

Established in 1977, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre is an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action, its website says.

Source: China Daily

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