Nazi-hunter Wiesenthal laid to rest in Herzliya

Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals, was set to be buried early Friday afternoon in Herzliya. His funeral began at noon. Wiesenthal died in his sleep Tuesday at his home in Vienna, at the age of 96. No cabinet ministers attended the funeral, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stayed away due to security concerns. Deputy Minister Michael Melchior represented the government at the funeral. Melchior said he had the privilege to know Wiesenthal for many years. „(Wiesenthal) acted in the name of justice. Even criminals who were not caught knew that there is a Wiesenthal and others like him looking for them hour by hour day after day,” Melchior said. Dean and founder of the Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Marvin Hier said „after the War when everyone else went to open a new page Wiesenthal was left behind to remember.” According to Hier, Wiesenthal „was the victims’ permanent representative.” A memorial service, attended by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, was held in Vienna on Wednesday and Wiesenthal’s body was flown to Israel on Thursday. His daughter and grandson live in Herzliya. On Wednesday, Sharon issued an announcement expressing the „great debt” owed by the State of Israel, the Jewish people and humanity to Wiesenthal. The statement said Wiesenthal devoted his life to ensuring that the horrors of the past would not return and that the hands of the murderers would not be made clean. „We are all indebted to his important enterprise,” it said. A one-man institution Wiesenthal was a one-man institution who devoted his life to one issue: the hunt, and the fight against anti-Semitism. He paid a dear price for his dedication: financial difficulties, threats to his life, and a 1982 attempt to blow up his house. Wiesenthal was born in 1908 to a family of well-off merchants in the town of Buczacz, near Lvov and today part of the Ukraine, but formerly in the Eastern Galicia territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He studied in Warsaw and Prague, and in 1932 graduated with an architecture degree. In 1936 he married Cyla Mueller and worked in an architect’s firm in Lvov. In 1939, with the outbreak of World War Two, Lvov came under Soviet control following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In 1941, after Operation Barbarossa and the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R., the Nazis took over Lvov, and Wiesenthal escaped execution with the help of a friend. However, he was caught and held in a concentration camp near Lvov, and then was sent to different work camps. On May 5, 1945, he was liberated from Matthausen in Austria weighing only 45 kilograms. His wife also survived the Holocaust. In 1977, when Rabbi Marvin Hier founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and confront anti-Semitism, Wiesenthal said: „When History looks back, I want people to know that the Nazis could not kill millions of people with impunity.” Wiesenthal, who lost 89 family members in the Holocaust, decided to devote his life to the quest for justice, because, as he put it, „there is no freedom without justice.” BPI-info