With 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations
Now in paperback, the first fully documented biography of the legendary Polish-born Nazi hunter—a revelatory account of a man whose life, though part invention, was wholly dedicated to ensuring both that the Nazis be held responsible for their crimes and that their destruction of European Jewry never be forgotten.
Within days of being liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal had assembled a list of nearly 150 Nazi war criminals, the first of dozens of such lists he would compile over a lifetime as a Nazi hunter. A hero in the eyes of many, Wiesenthal was also attacked for his unrelenting pursuit of justice for crimes committed in a past that many preferred to forget. With access to Wiesenthal’s private papers and to American, East German, and Israeli government archives, Tom Segev sheds new light on Wiesenthal’s most closely guarded secrets: his true role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, his connection to Isreal’s Mossad, his controversial investigative techniques, his unlikely friendships with Kurt Waldheim and Albert Speer, his rivalry with Elie Wiesel—making clear that the truth of Wiesenthal’s existence was far more complex and compelling than the legends (often of his own making) that surrounded him.
Bringing war criminals to justice makes for endless controversy, according to this thoughtful, knotty biography of the Jewish icon and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Israeli historian and newspaper columnist Segev (1967) recaps Wiesenthal's hair-raising travails in occupied Poland and in German concentration camps during WWII, then follows his unique postwar career as a freelance detective pushing for the arrest and prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators in his homeland of Austria and abroad. Just how many Nazis were tried and convicted as a result of Wiesenthal's actions is a vexed question; Segev's sympathetic but critical treatment grants him a central role in bringing down Adolf Eichmann, death-camp commandant Franz Stang, and hundreds of other Nazis, but allows that he embroidered his exploits and made up evocative stories. The author gives a similarly nuanced reading of Wiesenthal's maneuverings in the treacherous politics of Holocaust remembrance, which garnered him enemies in all quarters: he drew flak " Sleazenthal'" from Jewish groups for supporting former U.N. secretary-general Kurt Waldheim when he was outed as a Wehrmacht henchman and even Wiesenthal himself was falsely accused of wartime collaboration. Segev's Wiesenthal is a complicated man, by turns avuncular and prickly, idealistic and self-promoting, but he's ultimately a heroic, necessary figure who forced a world that would rather forget to acknowledge its debt to the dead.