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60 YEARS ON TRAIL OF THE EVIL NAZI WAR CRIMINALS; Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal dies aged 96.

Byline: By Nick Allen

NAZI-HUNTER Simon Wiesenthal died peacefully yesterday at the age of 96.

His death marked the end of a 60-year mission to ensure the evil masterminds of the Holocaust could never rest safely - and their millions of victims would never be forgotten.

Wiesenthal, a survivor of the extermination camps, lost 89 members of his family to the Nazis' Final Solution.

And when he emerged from the horror of the Mauthausen camp weighing less than seven stone, he devoted his life to tracking down the men and women responsible.

He said he quickly realised "there is no freedom without justice" and decided to dedicate "a few years" to seeking that justice.

Those years turned into decades and when asked what drove him to continue his mission, Wiesenthal said: "When history looks back, I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it."

He once estimated that his work hadledtoatleast1100warcriminals being brought to justice.

But he almost lost his biggest quarry - Adolf Eichmann, a leading planner of the Final Solution - because of a mix-up with the FBI.

Wiesenthal was told Eichmann, who had delighted in his mission to exterminate the Jewish race, was in Argentina and passed on the information to the Israeli authorities.

But the FBI believed he was in Damascus and Eichmann lived out the rest of the 1950s in Buenos Aires before an Israeli secret service squad snatched him fromthe street.

He was taken back to Israel where he was tried, found guilty of mass murder and executed in 1961.

After that, Ukrainian-born Wiesenthal opened the Jewish Documentation Centre in his adopted home of Vienna to hunt war criminals.

His office, with a staff of only four, became the nerve centre for tracking down those who took part in the worst crime in history.

And it was not long before he had another great success.

In 1963, he found Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, the 14-yearold Jewish girl murdered by the Nazis after hiding in an Amsterdam attic with her family for two years.

Dutch neo-Nazi propagandists had claimed her famous diary was faked. But Silberbauer, who had become a police inspector in Austria,admitted to Wiesenthal that he arrested her.

Three years later, 16 SS officers, nine found by Wiesenthal, were put on trial in Stuttgart for their role in the extermination of Jews in Lvov, Ukraine, where Wiesenthal worked as an architect before the war.

One man high on the Nazi-hunter's wanted list was Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps in Poland. He was found in 1967 in Brazil after a three-year search and was jailed in West Germany, where he died.

The same year, Wiesenthal went to New York and announced he had found Hermine Ryan, nee Braunsteiner, who had overseen the killings of several hundred children at Majdanek.

In 1973, she was jailed for life in Germany for war crimes.

Wiesenthal did not bring to justice one prime target - Dr Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mengele died in South America after eluding capture for decades.

Wiesenthal's work also stirred controversy. In Austria, which took decades to acknowledge its own role in Nazi crimes, Wiesenthal was ignored and often insulted before finally being honoured for his work when he was in his 80s.

Earlier this year, Austria honoured Wiesenthal with the Golden Decoration of Merit, one of the country's highest honours.

Legacy The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which opened in 1977, now has 400,000 members and promotes remembrance of the Holocaust and defence of human rights and the Jewish people.

Wiesenthal said: "When I die, my honours will die with me. But the Simon Wiesenthal Center will live on as my legacy."

Wiesenthal had been married to wife Cyla for only three years in 1939, when the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact allowed the Red Army to occupy Lvov and begin a purge of the Jewish middle class.

Wiesenthal's stepbrother was shot and his stepfather died in prison. He, Cyla and his mother only escaped deportation to Siberia because he bribed a Soviet secret policeman.

But when the Germans arrived in 1941, he and his wife were sent to a concentration camp near Lvov.

His mother was sent to the Belzec death camp and by September 1942, most of his family were dead.

His wife, who had blonde hair which enabled her to pass as non-Jewish, escaped the camp with the help of the Polish resistance. As Wiesenthal desperately struggled to survive, he believed her to be dead.

He escaped one camp in October 1943, just before the Germans began killing all the inmates, but was recaptured and sent to a camp at Janwska.

As the Red Army advanced, the SS guards at Janwska retreated and took with them the 34 prisoners, including Wiesenthal, who remained out of the camp's original 149,000.

He was eventually found, barely alive at Mauthausen, in upper Austria, when it was liberated by the Americans on May 5, 1945.

Later that year, he was overwhelmed to find his wife was still alive and was reunited with her. In1946, their daughter, Pauline, was born and Cyla remained at his side until her death two years ago.

As well as bringing the killers to justice,Wiesenthal was dedicated to ensuring the world never forgot the enormity of the Holocaust.

He was spurred on by the memory of the taunts of an SS man, who mocked him in 1944 when he told him he would make sure the truth got out.

The Nazi said: "You will tell the Americans? You know what would happen, Wiesenthal? They wouldn't believe you.

"They'd say you were mad.Might even put you into an asylum. How can anyone believe this terrible business - unless he has lived through it?"

Wiesenthal lived to prove the SS man wrong

CAPTION(S):

FACES OF EVIL: From left, Eichmann, Silberbauer and Mengele; QUEST FOR JUSTICE; Wiesenthal was determined the world would not forget the murderous terror in camps such as Auschwitz, below
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 21, 2005
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