CREDOS: Pursuing truth — II

Was it surprising to your parents and people who responded in the way they did after the Holocaust that there was a survivor like Wiesenthal?

It didn’t surprise my parents that there were Nazi-hunters — not only Wiesenthal, but also Serge and Beate Klarsfeld in France. There was also the Mossad, which in its own covert way had dedicated itself to bringing Nazis to justice.

In American consciousness, Wiesenthal came to embody the “Nazi-hunter” role. But did his persistence in bringing Nazis to justice through the decades make people uncomfortable?

I think the “Nazi-hunter” label is itself a misnomer. Wiesenthal didn’t actually capture anybody. He wasn’t really a Nazi-hunter; he was a Nazi documenter. And that’s a very big difference. He was a first-rate, meticulous, fastidious chronicler of historical documentation. He founded the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna. The real hunting element in his work was the hunting for information and documents. It’s really important to make that distinction, because for us as Americans, “Nazi-hunter” is such a classic “Rambo” image fostered by Hollywood. In the US, we have technically the Nazi-hunting arm of the government. But they just deport Nazis; they don’t even prosecute them for crimes.

When we think of Wiesenthal’s hunting for information, his persistence, and the meticulousness of gathering of evidence, that’s where he was extraordinary. —