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Posted Friday, February 20, 2004

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Friday, February 20, 2004


WiesenthalNazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal knighted

The 95-year-old Holocaust survivor is honoured for a life's work, reports Sean O'Neill

SIMON Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who has devoted his life to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen yesterday.

The Foreign Office said the award was made "in recognition of a lifetime of service to humanity".

Mr Wiesenthal, 95, uncovered the evidence that led to the execution of Adolf Eichmann, who supervised the implementation of Hitler's Final Solution. He also tracked down Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, the schoolgirl whose diary became world-famous.

Straw (right) with friendDespite his age, Mr Wiesenthal still works, attending the sparsely-furnished rooms from which he and a staff of three run the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna.

His mission is aided by the network of Simon Wiesenthal centres in the United States, Europe and Israel.

The honorary KBE is intended to recognise the value of Mr Wiesenthal's work to Jewish communities from Austria, Germany and central Europe, who made their post-war homes in Britain

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, [Straw (right) with friend] said: "Mr Wiesenthal has been untiring in his service to the Jewish communities in the UK and elsewhere by helping to right at least some of the awful wrongs of the Holocaust.

"If there is one name which symbolises this vital coming to terms with the past it is Simon Wiesenthal's."

Mr Wiesenthal was born in Buczacz in the Ukraine in December 1908 and became an architect in Lvov after training at Prague University.

He married his wife, Cyla, in 1936 and lived happily until 1939 when the Nazi-Soviet pact saw the Red Army invade Lvov and begin a persecution of the Jewish community. When the Nazis arrived in 1941, his family was sent to a concentration camp and then into forced labour.

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David Irving comments:

ONLY the meanest spirit could possibly see Jack Straw's award of the knighthood in our helpless Queen's name as a cynical move designed to attract back to the Labour party the votes that might otherwise flock to the Jewish chief of the opposition Conservative Party.
   The real reason is quite clearly to boost the Labour party's depleted election coffers, which are traditionally dependent on slush funds from Israel brought back by Blair's bagman Lord Levy from Israel. Hence Tony Blair's mealy mouthed refusal -- most recently at Question Time in Parliament last week -- to suggest that Israel too, after Iraq and Libya, should have her weapons of mass destruction brought under United Nations control.
   Yes, what goes around comes around: in this case under that useful phrase, Instrumentalisation of the Holocaust.
   Which means dining out on it, M'lud.

Mr Wiesenthal believes that 89 members of his and his wife's extended families died in the genocide. Mrs Wiesenthal survived, with the help of the Polish resistance, because her blonde hair allowed her to pass herself off as an Aryan.

She was separated from her husband, who was found barely alive when American troops liberated Mauthausen camp in Austria in May 1945.

As soon as his health was restored, Mr Wiesenthal began gathering evidence on Nazi atrocities to help the US army's war crimes investigators. Late in 1945 he was reunited with his wife.

In the 1950s the Cold War dampened the Allies' enthusiasm for Nazi-hunting. Mr Wiesenthal passed his files to the Israeli authorities, save for one. He doggedly pursued tip-offs that Eichmann was in Argentina, leading to the Gestapo technocrat's arrest, trial and execution.

Silberbauer was found working as a police inspector in Austria. Franz Strangl, [sic: Stangl] commandant of Treblinka camp, was traced to Brazil after three years of investigative work and imprisoned in West Germany in 1967.

Mr Wiesenthal was a consultant on the 1978 film The Boys from Brazil in which Sir Laurence Olivier played a character styled on the Nazi-hunter.

Mr Wiesenthal's reputation brought him constant death threats and hate mail and in 1982 a bomb exploded at the front door of his home.

It has also gained him recognition from governments around the world, including the United States Congressional Gold Medal and the Legion d'Honneur.

Mr Wiesenthal was unavailable for comment yesterday but his achievements might be summed up by a remark he made 10 years ago: "The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow that they will never rest."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.


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