Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal, an untiring campaigner who helped track down hundreds of Nazi war criminals, died Tuesday in his Vienna home, the US-based center founded in his name said. He was 96.
Wiesenthal died in his sleep at home in Vienna
Wiesenthal, who died after a long illness, helped bring more than 1,100 Nazi criminals to justice, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which did not give the cause of his death.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based center, described Wiesenthal as "the conscience of the Holocaust."
"When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember," Hier said in a statement. "He did not forget. He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of history's greatest crime to justice."
Born in 1908 in the town of Buchach in what is now Ukraine, Wiesenthal practiced architecture prior to World War II, when he was twice imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, in 1941-43 and 1944-45. Wiesenthal was freed by American soldiers from the camp at Mauthausen in central Austria in May 1945, but 89 members of his and his wife's family were killed, among them his mother, stepfather and stepbrother, in the Nazi genocide.
He founded the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna two years after the end of the war and in 1977 helped set up the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism worldwide.
Tracked Nazis in hiding
German Gestapo officer Adolf Eichmann confessed during his 1961 trail in Jerusalem to being an accomplice in the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews during World War II.
Wiesenthal played an important part in helping the Israeli secret service track down Adolf Eichmann (photo), the architect of the Nazis' "Final Solution" -- the extermination of Europe's Jewish population. Eichmann was seized by Israeli agents in Argentina and taken to Israel to be tried. He was executed there in 1961.
Wiesenthal's unrelenting hunt for the perpetrators of the Holocaust also unearthed SS leader Erich Rajakowitsch, Eichmann's representative in the Netherlands; Franz Stangl, the commander of Treblinka death camp; and Karl Silberbauer, who was responsible for Anne Frank's arrest.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center continues to search for former Nazis who have avoided prosecution. In 2002, it launched the campaign "Operation Last Chance" in several European countries, including Germany, Austria and the Baltics, offering cash rewards for information leading to sentencing perpetrators of Nazi crimes.