Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Simon Wiesenthal: "Justice, Not Vengeance."

Simon Wiesenthal Center

"I am someone who seeks justice, not revenge. My work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest. When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it," Simon Wiesenthal

There are Good Guys and Bad Guys. Among those, there are heroes and then there are Heroes. We know the difference. Especially between the ones who just talk a good game and those who show up -- to play, and to win. Between those who mouth empty platitudes and the special few who put their money--even their lives--where their mouths are.

Simon Wiesenthal was a Good Guy and a true Hero. He spent much of the first part of his life brutalized by the Bad Guys -- and the rest of his life hunting them down and making them pay, for all of us. He was for three generations (our parent's, ours, our children's) the human symbol of Righteous Anger toward the Nazis for their crimes against all humanity. He fought to bring at least 1,100 of them to justice.

As times changed, so did he, reaching out to fight not just anti-Semitism, but racism, prejudice, neo-Nazism and genocide against all people everywhere in the world. We should thank God he lived a long life. Because his death today at age 96 is a loss greater than we can imagine.

At a time when our supposed heroes take steroids, bribes and vacations, make excuses instead of progress, tell lies for personal gain rather than seek truth for the betterment of fellow human beings, Simon Wiesenthal was an anachronism. And that's a crime against humanity too.

George W. Bush endured the death of a sibling and the demands of cold, overbearing parents. He turned to drugs, alcohol and finally, Power to ease his inner suffering. Simon Wiesenthal survived 12 Nazi labor and death camps and lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust. He turned to justice, freedom and fighting with uncompromising morality to ease the suffering of millions.

It's an exercise in futility to compare them. Better to honor the life, decency and accomplishments of the one who stands above virtually all others. Here's what world and religious leaders are saying around the world. Oh, by the way, try as I might, I cannot find a quote about Mr. Wiesenthal from the President of the United States.

The Conscience of the Holocaust
"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."

"When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember. He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of history's greatest crime to justice.

"There was no press conference and no president or prime minister or world leader announced his appointment. He just took the job. It was a job no one else wanted.

"The task was overwhelming. The cause had few friends. The Allies were already focused on the Cold War, the survivors were rebuilding their shattered lives and Simon Wiesenthal was all alone, combining the role of both prosecutor and detective at the same time.

"He was doing it for his grandchildren, because if not, tomorrow murderers would take inspiration from the Nazis.

"His greatest accomplishment was that he showed the world what one person determined to do the right thing can accomplish." Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles

The Conscience of the World
'He was the conscience of the world. The Jewish people and all of humanity owe a lot to him because he acted systematically and very strongly ... He will be remembered as a symbol for the Jewish and human conscience, the need to protect moral values." Aver Shalev, director of Israel's Holocaust memorial

"Simon Wiesenthal was the biggest fighter of our generation. He represented the morality of humanity; he represented the free world, the democratic world." Israeli President Moshe Katsav

“Mr. Wiesenthal’s efforts to pursue justice for the victims of the Holocaust sent an important message to the world that there should be no impunity for genocide and crimes against humanity.” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

"[Wiesenthal] will forever be rightly credited with ensuring justice was done for some of the worst crimes in history. He was tireless in his efforts and he gave the Jewish communities in the UK and around the world a lifetime of service, and future generations will forever be indebted to him." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

"All of humanity is poorer for the loss of Wiesenthal. The Holocaust took everything he held most dear, his family. But he gave the generation of survivors that thing without which they could not have lived in peace -- a belief in justice." Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany

"Wiesenthal was one of the greats who contributed to clearing up the crimes of the Nazis. He also made it easier for Germany to look to the future." German President Horst Koehler

‘‘In consonance with the work of Simon Wiesenthal, the SAD (A) will continue to hunt for all those who have perpetrated the genocide of the Sikhs.’’ Professor Jagmohan Singh, India

"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." Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain, spokesman, Reform Synagogues of Great Britain

"Simon Wiesenthal is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Rather than succumb to bitterness or despair, he dedicated his life to finding the fugitive Nazis who perpetrated the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust. Now, as the task falls to all of us to carry on his mission, we must honor his work and life with dedication to the values he held so dear." U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi

A Fighter for Justice
"Wiesenthal was motivated not by revenge but by the search for justice and truth. That's what he did, right up to the last day." Berl Lazare, Grand Rabbi of Russia

"He was a soldier of justice, which is indispensable to our freedom, stability and peace. It was people like him who helped us to build Europe as we know it today." Terry Davis, secretary general of the Council of Europe

"Simon Wiesenthal acted to bring justice to those who had escaped justice. In doing so, he was the voice of 6 million." Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev

"A huge loss which has robbed the world of another honest man. Even from heaven, he will continue to bring justice to the perpetrators of evil." Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner

"Untiring fighter for justice and law." French President Jacques Chirac

"Simon Wiesenthal, like few others ... personally felt the shadow of history in its brutality. ... Despite this, I was always touched by the fact that he was not bitter and fought for justice admirably." Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

A Man We Will Never Forget
"We have lost an indefatigable fighter against forgetting." Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel

"Simon Wiesenthal was a man who emerged from the infernal concentration camps with the purpose of pursuing justice. Wiesenthal, more than anyone else in the world, represented the belief that anti-Semitism and crimes against humanity are not mitigated with passing time, nor are they ever forgiven." Rabbi Michael Melchior, Deputy Minister of Social and Diaspora Affairs in charge of Anti-Semitism

"Humanity is poorer because a just man, Simon Wiesenthal, is gone." Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany

"We have the impression that a legendary horseman is leaving on his horse for another world." -- Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, president of the Association of Jewish Deportees in France.

"The name of Simon Wiesenthal ... will live on." Austrian President Heinz Fischer.

"Simon Wiesenthal and his 50 years of service to the world in the name of tolerance and justice will never be forgotten," U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer
The New York Times describes how Wiesenthal was often asked why he had become a searcher of Nazi criminals instead of resuming a profitable career in architecture. His response: "When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, 'What have you done?' there will be many answers. You will say, 'I became a jeweler.' Another will say, 'I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.' Still another will say, 'I built houses,' but I will say, 'I didn't forget you.' "

We must not forget him. Nor the more than 11 million dead, including 6 million Jews he never forgot. In his honor, in their honor, we must remember--and teach our children--Never Again.

"If we ignore the past, if we distort or deny what happened, then the past will return. Only by remembering can we and our children and their children build a just future; a future in which human life never loses its value." Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal, Who Helped Hunt Nazis After War, Dies at 96 - New York TimesReuters.co.ukWorld mourns Simon Wiesenthal, Nazi hunter - Forbes.comJerusalem Post Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish WorldNewsday.com: Wiesenthal Remembered by Leaders, PeersU.S. Newswire : Releases : "Pelosi Statement on the Death of Simon Wiesenthal"Wiesenthal Remembered by Leaders, Peers SAD (A) mourns demise of Simon Wiesenthal EuroNews Aljazeera.Net - Famed Nazi hunter Wiesenthal dies [Yes, even Aljazeera notes his passing.]

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Blogger Sally Swift said...

As always, my friend Jesse, aka
Swami Uptown comes through.

He sent me this link President's Statement on Death of Simon Wiesenthal

I wonder though, why Mr. Bush and his handlers felt it necessary to have his remarks come personally, from himself and Laura Bush.

Was he not speaking for America as other world leaders spoke for their countries? And if not, why not?

7:43 PM  
Blogger David Goldenberg said...

Sally--what a totally encompassing and remarkable post. You have articulated what so many of us surely feel--a loss, and yet the life well spent.

As one who heard Mr. Wiesenthal speak and whose life was changed by the passion in his eyes and voice, I can say that you covered it all so well and so thoughtfully--even to include the reference of what "hero" means to us and our children now. The heights to which a human spirit can rise in the works and themes of Wiesenthal’s life can't be even slightly dimmed by the evidence of imbecility in some of our elected public servants.

Thanks for your research and thoughts, as always,


9:11 PM  

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