Simon Wiesenthal to Be Laid to Rest Friday in Herzliya

Nazi-hunter Wiesenthal died Tuesday at age 96; Bush: History will always remember him.

Nazi-hunter and Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal will be laid to rest at noon Friday at the Pinsker Street cemetery in Herzliya.

World leaders, human rights activists and Jewish organizations have expressed their sadness at Wiesenthal's death Tuesday at the age of 96, praising his courage and determination to seek justice - rather than revenge - against Nazi atrocities.

Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, Austria, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, the 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 said.

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The famed Nazi hunter's tireless drive to avenge the victims in court and not in the streets earned tributes from many who said Wiesenthal helped make it possible for Europe to both recognize the sins of the Holocaust and to move past them.

President Moshe Katsav hailed Wiesenthal as the "biggest fighter" of his generation.

"He represented the morality of humanity; he represented the free world, the democratic world," Katsav said during a visit to Latvia. "He devoted his life to fighting racism, anti-Semitism, Nazism and he really contributed to making a better world for the next generation."

World leaders noted his passing with a mixture of grief at his death and admiration for his life. Among the first to issue a statement of praise was former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who noted with sadness that "his voice will be missed in the future."

"Simon Wiesenthal, like few others ... personally felt the shadow of history in its brutality," Kohl said in a statement. "Despite this, I was always touched by the fact that he was not bitter and fought for justice admirably. I personally thank him for his advice and friendship."

U.S. President George W. Bush called Wiesenthal "a tireless and passionate advocate who devoted his life to tracking down Nazi killers and promoting freedom."

"Simon Wiesenthal fought for justice, and history will always remember him," he said in a statement.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wiesenthal's pursuit of justice for Holocaust victims "sent an important message to the world that there should be no impunity for genocide and crimes against humanity".

French President Jacques Chirac recalled Wiesenthal as a "tireless campaigner for justice and rights," while Austria's President Heinz Fischer declared that Wiesenthal's message would be carried on through his worldwide work and documentation center.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that "the name Simon Wiesenthal will forever be synonymous with justice and fostering tolerance and understanding." In February 2004, Wiesenthal was awarded an honorary knighthood by Her Majesty the Queen for his vital contribution to humanity.

Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski described him as an indefatigable man moved by conviction "that for the common good one has to search for truth."

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said he would "bow my head before his memory."

"Humanity is poorer because a just man, Simon Wiesenthal, is gone," he said.

One of Wiesenthal's most famous moments was the capture of one time SS leader Adolf Eichmann. But Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, said he also would live on as a fighter for human rights.

"For many, his greatest achievement was turning the phrase 'Never again' from a catchy slogan into an effective international campaign against the perpetrators of genocide of all kinds, from Nazi Germany to modern Rwanda," he said.

Fellow Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, president of the Association of Jewish Deportees in France, described him as a trailblazer and warrior, a fighter for those who had no voice.

"We have the impression that a legendary horseman is leaving on his horse for another world," Klarsfeld said. "An era has ended and a legendary figure has left us."

Jewish organizations from Johannesburg to Jerusalem mourned Wiesenthal. Michael Bagraim, National Chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said Wiesenthal's most important legacy was the lesson that justice does not have a "sell-by date" but had to be sought - even after years had passed.

Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, praised his devotion to documenting the Holocaust, especially in regard to war crimes and pursuit of the criminals.

"He was a smiling man but a man who remembered - remembered the war crimes," Shalev said while speaking on Israel's Army Radio. "He was a man who wanted to be a sort of conscience in the mind of the world that, justly or unjustly - and we think unjustly - did not pursue war criminals for political and lots of other reasons."

"Without Simon Wiesenthal's relentless effort to find Nazi criminals and bring them to justice, and to fight anti-Semitism and prejudice, Europe would never have succeeded in healing its wounds and reconcile itself," said Terry Davis, chairman of the Council of Europe. "He was a soldier of justice, which is indispensable to our freedom, stability and peace."

Related links

* Diplomats, politicians pay homage to Wiesenthal in Vienna