CREDOS: Pursuing truth — I
After surviving the Holocaust, the late Simon Wiesenthal, who died on Sept. 20, at 96, devoted his life to tracking down Nazis and documenting their crimes. Shortly after Wies-enthal’s death, Beliefnet senior editor Alice Chasan spoke with law professor and novelist Thane Rosenbaum, author of “The Myth of Moral Justice,” about Wiesenthal’s legacy and what moral obligations exist for victims and wrongdoers.
You are the child of Holocaust survivors. What were you taught about Simon Wiesenthal growing up?
There were two kinds of perspectives in the survivor community. And those who very much celebrated Wiesenthal were those who mostly thought of themselves as survivors. Survival itself is a kind of retribution for the crimes of the Nazis against the Jews. Wiesenthal — and of course the nationhood of Israel — represented a post-Holocaust mindset of a kind of what I would call the “never again” philosophy. Wiesenthal stood for the concept of never again. Everything about the idea of the Nazi-hunter and bringing Nazis to justice in an
era when Nazis were in hiding and then the world didn’t care anymore, represented that kind of retributive philosophy.
My family really didn’t fall into that category so much. There was much more of a sense of loss and lamentation about what was lost. I think the people who were big followers of Wiesenthal were the very people who had thought in a much more forward-looking way. — Beliefnet.com