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Now in paperback, the first fully documented biography of the legendary Polish-born Nazi hunter—a revelatory account of a man whose life, though part invention, was wholly dedicated to ensuring both that the Nazis be held responsible for their crimes and that their destruction of European Jewry never be forgotten.
Within days of being liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal had assembled a list of nearly 150 Nazi war criminals, the first of dozens of such lists he would compile over a lifetime as a Nazi hunter. A hero in the eyes of many, Wiesenthal was also attacked for his unrelenting pursuit of justice for crimes committed in a past that many preferred to forget. With access to Wiesenthal’s private papers and to American, East German, and Israeli government archives, Tom Segev sheds new light on Wiesenthal’s most closely guarded secrets: his true role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, his connection to Isreal’s Mossad, his controversial investigative techniques, his unlikely friendships with Kurt Waldheim and Albert Speer, his rivalry with Elie Wiesel—making clear that the truth of Wiesenthal’s existence was far more complex and compelling than the legends (often of his own making) that surrounded him.
Overall, I liked it, but I think I would only recommend it for those already interested to some degree in either Holocaust/Jewish studies, Simon Weisenthal, WWII, etc.For those (like me) who may not recall off the top of their head, Simon Weisenthal survived the Holocaust and tracked down many Nazis - including Adolf Eichmann, the "architect of the Holocaust" - to bring them to trial for war crimes in the decades following 1945.Though there are explanations and context throughout, I think some familiarity with Simon Weisenthal is helpful to have before diving into this book. He's a complex man who many have argued had a liberal relationship with the truth. This biography points out instances, potential motivations, and - when the truth is not acertainable - multiple versions presented by Weisenthal himself. These elements coupled with the sometimes shadowy world Weisenthal exposed and make the book rich and deep and interesting.In some ways, for those (like me) unfamiliar with the history, part of the suspense of this book is following each campaign/effort to track down Nazis and to see whether the attempt was successful in a) finding the war criminal or b) bringing them to trial/justice. The shadowy nature of the efforts and the necessity of weighing the stories, documents, arguments/lawsuites and evidence to ascertain truth (or extent thereof) is also a dramatic aspect of looking at Weisenthal's life in retrospect.As documentation bringing to light apparently new and and more comprehensive information on Weisenthal, I think this biography succeeds. There are ~45 pages of notes and the author had access to records only recently unclassified and exclusive interviews as well as to the archives of Weisenthal's documentation center in Vienna. It does attempt to answer questions about his motivations for hunting down Nazi's, his writing (including The Sunflower), and some of his major confrontations (including with the first Jewish chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kreisky). I felt the balance largely focused on his career later in life and there was little about his personal life - his relationship with his wife or daughter Paulinka. Aside from stamp collecting, there's little mention of anything Weisenthal did aside from track down Nazis. So to some extent, it's still missing a bit of the humanistic perspective of Weisenthal even though it does get at why he made hunting Nazi's his life's work.read more
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Bringing war criminals to justice makes for endless controversy, according to this thoughtful, knotty biography of the Jewish icon and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Israeli historian and newspaper columnist Segev (1967) recaps Wiesenthal's hair-raising travails in occupied Poland and in German concentration camps during WWII, then follows his unique postwar career as a freelance detective pushing for the arrest and prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators in his homeland of Austria and abroad. Just how many Nazis were tried and convicted as a result of Wiesenthal's actions is a vexed question; Segev's sympathetic but critical treatment grants him a central role in bringing down Adolf Eichmann, death-camp commandant Franz Stang, and hundreds of other Nazis, but allows that he embroidered his exploits and made up evocative stories. The author gives a similarly nuanced reading of Wiesenthal's maneuverings in the treacherous politics of Holocaust remembrance, which garnered him enemies in all quarters: he drew flak-"Sleazenthal'"-from Jewish groups for supporting former U.N. secretary-general Kurt Waldheim when he was outed as a Wehrmacht henchman and even Wiesenthal himself was falsely accused of wartime collaboration. Segev's Wiesenthal is a complicated man, by turns avuncular and prickly, idealistic and self-promoting, but he's ultimately a heroic, necessary figure who forced a world that would rather forget to acknowledge its debt to the dead. (Sept. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved