Simon Wiesenthal

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Simon Wiesenthal was an Austrian author and Holocaust survivor who rose to prominence as a Nazi hunter in the aftermath of World War II. Although he was trained as an architect, he never returned to the field. Rather than that, he dedicated his life to honoring Holocaust survivors and educating future generations about Nazism and anti-Semitism. The majority of his family perished during the war, in concentration camps and death camps. He vowed to apprehend and punish the perpetrators. His critics labeled him obstinate and naive. Nonetheless, his unwavering commitment to bringing those responsible for the Holocaust to justice has been credited with the prosecution of dozens of war criminals. He investigated allegations of war crimes, tracked down fugitive Nazi war criminals, and gathered information to assist Jewish refugees in locating lost relatives in the years following his liberation. Although some critics have questioned the veracity of his memoirs, his creative writings serve as an important voice for remembering the atrocities committed during World War II in Europe and the human stories of survival. Seen as a member of Europe’s conscience, he pursued politicians with Nazi ties and refused to submit to threats from neo-Nazis in the late twentieth century.

Childhood & Adolescence

Simon Wiesenthal was born in Buczaz on 31 December 1908 to Asher and Rosa Wiesenthal. He was descended from Jews. His family emigrated from the Russian Empire in 1905 in order to avoid organized Jewish massacres.
In 1915, his father was killed on the Eastern Front of World War I. His mother and two children—Simon and Hillel—fled to Vienna when Russian troops seized their home in Galicia (now in Ukraine).

In 1917, he returned to Buczacz with his family, where he attended the Humanistic Gymnasium.

He met his future wife, Cyla Müller, in gymnasium and moved in with her family in Dolyna, Ukarine, after his mother remarried in 1926.

He graduated from high school in 1928 and applied to the Politechnika Lwowska to study architecture, but was denied admission because the school had reached its quota of Jewish students. Rather than that, he enrolled in and graduated from the Czech Technical University in Prague in 1932.

Career of Simon Wiesenthal

Wiesenthal’s career between his graduation in 1932 and the outbreak of WWII is obscure. He may have worked in Odessa factories or joined an architectural firm, designing a tuberculosis sanitarium and residential buildings.

Wiesenthal and his wife were arrested and transferred to the Janowska concentration camp by Nazi forces in 1941. He and his wife were separated in late 1941 and sent to separate labor camps. In 1945, the couple reconciled.

He endured a difficult detention period but survived the holocaust. During the Holocaust, Simon and his wife lost 89 relatives.

After his liberation from Mauthausen in 1945, he worked for the United States Army’s War Crimes Section, compiling evidence of Nazi atrocities. After the war, he continued to work for the United States, joining the Army’s Office of Strategic Services and Counter-Intelligence Corps. He also oversaw the Jewish Central Committee of the United States Zone of Austria, a relief and welfare organization.

In 1947, following his discharge from the United States Army, he established the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Linz, Austria, with the assistance of thirty volunteers. The Center gathered evidence in preparation for future Nazi war criminal prosecutions. It ceased operations in 1954, when the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, Israel, took over the files.

Encouraged by Adolph Eichmann’s capture and prosecution in the early 1960s, he reopened the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Vienna in 1961, this time focusing exclusively on the hunt for war criminals.

His most famous case involved the hunt for Gestapo officer Karl Silberbauer, who arrested teenage diary writer Anne Frank in Amsterdam. During this time period, he was credited with assisting in the prosecution of numerous former Nazi officials and Gestapo officers.

In the 1970s and 1980s, his efforts were widely lauded in American culture. He was portrayed in the 1974 film ‘The Odessa File,’ which was based on Frederick Forsyth’s eponymous novel.

Significant Works of Simon Wiesenthal

Wiesenthal’s 1967 memoir, ‘The Murderers Among Us,’ details his experiences in Nazi labor camps and explains why he dedicated his life to his work.

He published ‘The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness’ in 1969; the book is a collection of questions he asked and responses he received from theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, and genocide survivors regarding whether all people truly deserve forgiveness if they ask for it.

His 1987 book, ‘Every Day Remembrance Day: A Chronicle of Jewish Martyrdom,’ details 2000 years of atrocities committed against members of the Jewish faith, as well as the dates on which they occurred.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 2000, he was presented with the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He was appointed ‘Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in 2004.

He was awarded the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold in 2005 for his services to the Republic of Austria.

Personal History and Legacies

Wiesenthal married Cyla Müller, his high school sweetheart, in 1936. They were separated in 1941 while detained by the Nazis and reunited in 1945. They had only one child, Paulinka, born in 1946.

He was apprehended and interned in a concentration camp run by the Nazis. He weighed less than a hundred pounds when he was liberated from the camp. He detailed two attempted suicides during his internment and felt it was his responsibility to make his survival meaningful on a grand scale.

He has been accused of exaggerating and sensationalizing his role in the capture of Adolph Eichmann and other prominent Nazis, but his defenders maintain that such charges diminish his efforts and lifelong pursuit of justice. He demanded little financial compensation.

On 20 September 2005, he died peacefully in his modest Vienna apartment and was buried in Herzliya, Israel.

Estimated Net Worth

Simon is one of the wealthiest War Heroes and ranks among the most popular War Heroes. Simon Wiesenthal’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.