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Simon Wiesenthal


“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived.”

By: Allison Valdiviezo

I. Introduction. a) Taking a stand for justice


A Jew among others. a) Early life b) The influence of the war


Witness of terror, Nazi hunter. a) Memorable experience b) Brave decision


Conflicts. a) How giving the back to unresolved issues? b) Confronting his tormentors for the second time


After 58 years of work, he makes it. a) Last years



Taking a Stand for Justice. “I know I am not only the bad conscience of the Nazis. I am also the bad conscience of the Jews. Because what I have taken up as my duty was everybody's duty.”

A Jew among others. “Freedom is not a gift of heaven; you have to fight for it every day.”

Early life Simon Wiesenthal was born on December 31, 1908, in the arms of a Jewish family of Buczacz, Galicia (in what is today the Ukraine). At the time Simon was born, Buczacz was a small town with a predominately Jewish on the eastern fringe of the AustroHungarian Empire, which lately would be the sentence for its residents during the invasion of the German troops in World War II. Asher Wiesenthal, Simon´s father, supported his family as sugar merchant, what was considered relatively affluent in the region. But with the outbreak of the World War I, in 1914, he was called to active duty and died in combat on the Eastern Front in 1917. Crushed by the notice, Simon, his young brother Hillel, and his mother Rosa Wiesenthal, fled to Vienna to avoid the Russians that were dominating Galicia. As soon as Russians retreated, the Wiesenthal family goes back to his country trying to rebuild their lives. Simon Wiesenthal enters to Buczacz Gymnasium, a secondary school attended mainly by Jewish children. Here Simon met Cyla Müller, his future wife, but the same year his brother died as a result of an accident. Her mother remarried and moves away to Dolina. Simon continued his studies at Buczacz Gymnasium until he finished them on 1928. Then he decided to try architecture as a University career. The Polish Lwów Polytechnic University didn’t accepted him because of quota restriction of Jewish students, and his other option was the Czech Technical University in Prague, where he stay just for one semester, mainly because of the anti-Semitism movement there. He transferred to the Czech Technical University and graduated in architectural engineering on 1932. Now he was ready to start a life in Poland with his recent wife, Cyla Müller.

The influence of war Around 1936, Simon had almost reach a perfect life, as perfect as it could be in the middle of the war, but when Stalin and Hitler signed a non-aggression pact on 1938, things would change. An increased repression against Jews and “capitalists” was forming. Simon had to close his architectural practice and subsequently worked in a mattress factory. Many times he was detained and released, until 1942, when he and his wife were sending to a labor camp. Cyla Müller, Simon´s wife, could hide her Jewish origins to the German soldiers because of her features, her blond hair and some false papers that were supplied by the Polish resistance in exchange for plots of the intersections of the railroad that her husband drew, but Wiesenthal wasn’t that lucky. Witness of terror, Nazi hunter. "When history looks back," Wiesenthal explained, "I want people to know the Nazis weren’t able to kill millions of people and get away with it." Memorable experience In four years of capture, Simon Wiesenthal was interned in 12 concentration camps. He survived by his intelligence and ability, doing works for the soldiers like painting banners, etc. Once he escapes from Janowska camp, but he was rearrested and imprisoned in the Lackie Wielkie slave labor camp. Many times he tried to attempt suicide, but then he was “saved” by the soldiers and reinstalled in other concentration camp. Now Simon remembers works like excavate bodies from mass graves and burn them, or having construct what was going to be his prison for a year. His last stay was at the Mauthausen concentration camp that was liberated by American troops. Simon Wiesenthal survive and took up the activity, which at first gave him the strength to go on living and which was to become his self-imposed

mission in life: to search for Nazi perpetrators and bring them to a court of law.

He resists the horror. Brave decision As early as he got out, 20 days after liberation, he presented to U.S. Colonel Richard Seibel a letter offering to help bring Nazi criminals to justice. This document contains his curriculum vitae and a list of 91 Nazi perpetrators, SS men and Gestapo agents who had either caused him to suffer, or who had committed crimes against his fellow prisoners. After a few days he began working for the U.S. War Crimes Unit, later for the OSS, and also for the CIC. He collected testimonies from survivors and compiled a list of Nazi criminals, to which he could arrested by his own if the opportunity comes. In 1947, Wiesenthal opened his own private office, the Jewish Historical Documentation Center, in Linz. And, together with thirty volunteers, he continued the searching for Nazi criminals. Simon strives to reunite families in the displaced persons camps. He had to carry on this work in Linz until 1961.

Conflicts. “Justice for crimes against humanity must have no limitations.” How giving the back to unresolved issues? A huge list of criminals and the support of witnesses was there for him. But the audience didn’t respond as he expect. Most of people was trying to forgot that horrible experience and escape through the future. But how can they forget about the past when we should care and learn from it? It becomes Simon Wiesenthal´s personal mission, as

his 30 friends abandoned him, to rise up people´s courage and make vibrate the memory of the thousands of people who were killed for no reason. Confronting his tormentors for the second time Dealing with ex- terrorism masters was a big deal. But he always remembers who had the power then. The war was over and a new start of justice and peace was growing up. Even thought he had some kind of government´s guard, lots of death threats were received, and, in 1982, a bomb planted on the outside of his home in Vienna exploded. However, I think, Simon Wiesenthal was brave enough, as he continues with this justice task until his dead. Never let anything scare him. After 58 years of work, he makes it “I don't think there is any other solution than constantly coming to terms with the past, and learning from it.” Last years 58 ears took to Simon Wiesenthal to complete his criminal list. He found each one of the persons there, and make them all pay by law. On February 19, 2004, Britain decided to appoint honorary knight Wiesenthal in recognition of "a lifetime of service to humanity." Years later, Wiesenthal died sleeping in Vienna, on September 20, 2005 at the advanced age of 96. He was buried in Israel three days later, on September 23.

Conclusion. To take a stand we just need a motivation, passion for something, a reason to continue with our lives. This was all what Simon Wiesesnthal had and that´s why he fight and struggle until he reach his goal. I see him as a role model of perseverance, and, because he deals with international and government issues, I think he was very brave. Not everybody has the guts to comfort by himself a huge organization of powerful leaders. Simon never let anybody put his spirit down, because he knows what was morally right, and transformed a personal revenge into an issue for the whole world.