Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter, was born in 1908 in Galicia, then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Ukraine). He studied architecture and worked in his profession until the persecution of the Jews began. During WW-II he lived through the hell of 13 work and concentration camps. In the last one, the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, weighing less than 100 pounds and lying helplessly in the stenchy barracks, Wiesenthal was barely alive when the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army on May 5, 1945.

After the war ended Wiesenthal decided to dedicate his life to the hunt of Nazi criminals. As soon as his health was sufficiently restored, he began gathering and preparing evidence on Nazi atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the United States Army. Late in 1945, he and his wife, each of whom had believed the other to be dead, were reunited, and in 1946, their daughter Pauline was born.

The evidence supplied by Wiesenthal was utilized in the American zone war crime trials. When his association with the United States Army ended in 1947, Wiesenthal and thirty volunteers opened the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Linz, Austria, for the purpose of assembling evidence for future trials. But, as the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union intensified, both sides lost interest in prosecuting Germans, and Wiesenthal's volunteers, succumbing to frustration, drifted away to more ordinary pursuits. In 1954, the office in Linz was closed and its files were given to the Yad Vashem Archives in Israel, except for one - the dossier on Adolf Eichmann, the inconspicuous technocrat who, as chief of the Gestapo's Jewish Department, had supervised the implementation of the "Final Solution".

While continuing to make a living as a relief and welfare worker, Wiesenthal never relaxed in his pursuit of the elusive Eichmann who had disappeared at the time of Germany's defeat in World War II. In 1953, Wiesenthal received information that Eichmann was in Argentina from people who had spoken to him there. He passed this information on to Israel through the Israeli embassy in Vienna and in 1954 also informed Nahum Goldmann, but the FBI had received information that Eichmann was in Damascus, Syria. It was not until 1959 that Israel was informed by Germany that Eichmann was in Buenos Aires living under the alias of Ricardo Klement. He was captured there by Israeli agents and brought to Israel for trial. Eichmann was found guilty of mass murder and executed on May 31, 1961.

Encouraged by the capture of Eichmann, Wiesenthal reopened the Jewish Documentation Center, this time in Vienna, and concentrated exclusively on the hunting of war criminals. Thanks to his efforts more prominent criminals were brought to justice, among them Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps in Poland; Hermine Braunsteiner, the notorious wardress of Ravensbruck and Majdanek who had supervised the killings of several hundred children; and Karl Silberbauer, the man who arrested Anne Frank.

The Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna was a nondescript, sparsely furnished three-room office with a staff of four, including Wiesenthal. Contrary to belief, Wiesenthal did not usually track down the Nazi fugitives himself. His chief task was gathering and analyzing information. In that work he was aided by a vast, informal, international network of friends, colleagues, and sympathizers, including German World War II veterans, appalled by the horrors they witnessed. He even received tips from former Nazis with grudges against other former Nazis. A special branch of his Vienna office documented the activities of right-wing groups, neo-Nazis and similar organizations.

Among Mr. Wiesenthal's many honors include an Honorary Knighthood of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton, 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 presented to him by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, and the French Legion of Honor which he received in 1986.

A new biography published in 2010 claims that Wiesenthal was frequently on the payroll of the Mossad, Israel's spy agency.

Wiesenthal's life motto was "Justice not Vengeance". He died in 2005 in Vienna and is burried in Herzliya, Israel.

The stamp was issued in 2010 as a shared Israel-Austria stamp. Designers: Michael Rosenfeld & Meir Eshel.