Social Reformer. A Holocaust survivor, he was called the "Conscience of the Holocaust," and was a pioneer against anti-semitism. Best known for his role in locating Adolf Eichmann, the one-time SS leader who organized the extermination of 6 million Jews, in Argentina and was abducted by Israeli agent Peter Maulkin and others in 1960 to be tried and hanged for war crimes committed against the Jews. Born in Buczacz, in what is now the Ukraine, Wiesenthal fled briefly to Vienna, Austria with his family after the death of his father but returned to Buczacz when his mother remarried. After graduation from gymnasium (high school) in 1928 he attended the Technical University of Prague, receiving a degree in architectural engineering in 1932 and pursued a career in architecture. First imprisoned in the Ukraine in 1941 when the German troops attacked the Soviet Union, he escaped from the work camp in 1943 but was recaptured a few months later. He spent time in a total of 12 concentration camps and was freed by U.S. forces in 1945 from the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Of the 91 family members only he and his wife survived. On behalf of the American government he participated in the first investigations against the Nazi war criminals which was to become his life's work. In 1947 he helped establish one of the first Nazi war crimes documentation centers in Linz, Austria, followed by a second in Vienna after the capture of Adolf Eichmann. During the course of his life he accumulated 6,000 files covering suspected Nazi war criminals and a complete SS leader list with 90,000 names. He personally followed 3,000 cases and provided his information to secret police and governments. His 1960 book, "ich jagte Eichman" (I hunted Eichman) described the tracking down of Eichmann and earned him the title of "Nazi hunter." He eventually brought a total of 1,100 Nazi criminals to justice. As a result there are centers named for him in Vienna, Los Angeles, Paris and Jerusalem. His memoirs, "The Murderers Among Us," was published in 1967. His awards include decorations from the Austrian and French resistance movements, the Dutch Freedom Medal, the Luxembourg Freedom Medal, the United Nations League for the Help of Refugees Award, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 1980, and the French Legion of Honor 1986. In later years his work against anti-semitism was further recognized with Germany's Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, knighthood from Britain's Queen Elizabeth in 2004 and Austria's Goldene Ehrenzeichen also in 2005. Died in Vienna; upon his death the city of Vienna displayed black flags in recognition of his work and long connection with that city.
Bio by: Fred Beisser
Cyla Muller Wiesenthal