Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down numerous Nazi war criminals following World War II then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.
Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, Austria, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
“I think he’ll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice,” Hier told The Associated Press.
Wiesenthal, who had been an architect before World War II, changed his life’s mission after the war, dedicating himself to trying to track down Nazi war criminals and to being a voice for the 6 million Jews who died during the onslaught. He himself lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust.
Wiesenthal spent more than 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals, speaking out against neo-Nazism and racism, and remembering the Jewish experience as a lesson for humanity. Through his work, he said, some 1,100 Nazi war criminals were brought to justice.
“When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren’t able to kill millions of people and get away with it.”