"Why do you still search for Nazis?" people ask. So the Nazis will be robbed of sleep, says Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
DW: What does the Simon Wiesenthal Center stand for as an institution?
Rabbi Marvin Hier: Simon Wiesenthal Center is an activist organization that confronts hate, bigotry, anti-Semitism. At the same time, through its museums, one in Los Angeles and the other now in construction in Jerusalem, it educates the younger generation not to make the mistakes that happened 75 and 85 years ago.
How do you judge German postwar justice?
I think that they could have been much more aggressive in searching for these war criminals. The reason it's important to do this is because evil won't disappear. What we need in our world is more [Winston] Churchills and fewer [Neville] Chamberlains. The world is full of Chamberlains today. Everybody wants to talk, nobody wants to act until it's too late.
Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust surviver, dedicated much of his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals
Churchill had it right in the 1930s. He said many times, "If people would have listened to me more in the 1930s, we never would have had the 1940s." In terms of Jewish casualties, six million were murdered as were millions of non-Jews. Most of these 50 million or 55 million people would still be alive.
Simon Wiesenthal was called a "Nazi hunter," and your center still hunts Nazi war criminals. How many are left on your list?
There are still hundreds. Every day we get asked: Why are you doing this so many years later? And we quote Mr. Wiesenthal: "It's impossible to bring all the Nazi war criminals to justice." He said they need to know there's still somebody looking for them. Maybe that too is a small measure of justice — that they can't sleep at night. They think: Tomorrow they will discover me. That's why it's worth it. Let them sleep less.
But in very few years there will be no Nazi perpetrators alive at all. Considering that, how do you see the future of your institution?
Our institution does not only deal with Nazis. Our institution speaks out on anti-Semites and bigotry around the world, not only against Jews, also against non-Jews. There are almost 7 million visitors a year to our Museum of Tolerance. As long as bigotry and anti-Semitism exists, the work of the Wiesenthal Center is necessary.
Last year in the United States we had more anti-Semitic attacks than in many years. Hate is on the rise. Our work is not only for those who know about Auschwitz and Buchenwald: It is to prevent those bigots from creating another Auschwitz and Buchenwald.