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Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends
Synopses & Reviews
This first fully documented biography of Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi hunter, is also a brilliant character study of a man whose life was part invention but wholly dedicated to ensuring both that the Nazis be held responsible for their crimes and that the destruction of European Jewry never be forgotten.
Like most Jews in Eastern Europe on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, twenty-four-year-old Simon Wiesenthal did not grasp the nature of the Nazi threat. But six years later, when a skeletal Wiesenthal was liberated from the concentration camp at Mauthausen, he fully fathomed the crimes of the Nazis. Within days he had assembled a list of nearly 150 Nazi war criminals, the first of dozens of such lists he would make over a lifetime as a Nazi hunter. A hero in the eyes of many, Wiesenthal was also attacked for his unrelenting pursuit of the past, when others preferred to forget.
For this new biography, rich in newsworthy revelations, historian and journalist Tom Segev has obtained access to Wiesenthal’s private papers and to sixteen archives, including records of the U.S., Israeli, Polish, and East German secret services. Segev is able to reveal the intriguing secrets of Wiesenthal’s life, including his stunning role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, his relationship with Israel’s Mossad, his controversial investigative techniques, his unlikely friendships with Kurt Waldheim and Albert Speer, and the nature of his rivalry with Elie Wiesel.
Segev’s challenge in writing this biography was Wiesenthal’s own complicated relationship to truth. Wiesenthal told many versions of his life, his suffering in the camps, and his involvement with the arrest of individual Nazis. Segev shows that in order to gain the information he sought and twist the arms of reluctant government figures, Wiesenthal needed to seem more influential than he really was.
For two generations of Americans, Simon Wiesenthal was a Jewish superhero—depicted on film by Ben Kingsley and Laurence Olivier—and the muse for a Frederick Forsyth thriller. Now Segev demonstrates that the truth of Wiesenthal’s existence is as compelling as the fiction. Simon Wiesenthal is an unforgettable life of one of the great men of the twentieth century.
"Bringing war criminals to justice makes for endless controversy, according to this thoughtful, knotty biography of the Jewish icon and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Israeli historian and newspaper columnist Segev (1967) recaps Wiesenthal's hair-raising travails in occupied Poland and in German concentration camps during WWII, then follows his unique postwar career as a freelance detective pushing for the arrest and prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators in his homeland of Austria and abroad. Just how many Nazis were tried and convicted as a result of Wiesenthal's actions is a vexed question; Segev's sympathetic but critical treatment grants him a central role in bringing down Adolf Eichmann, death-camp commandant Franz Stang, and hundreds of other Nazis, but allows that he embroidered his exploits and made up evocative stories. The author gives a similarly nuanced reading of Wiesenthal's maneuverings in the treacherous politics of Holocaust remembrance, which garnered him enemies in all quarters: he drew flak--'Ã¢Â€Â˜Sleazenthal''--from Jewish groups for supporting former U.N. secretary-general Kurt Waldheim when he was outed as a Wehrmacht henchman and even Wiesenthal himself was falsely accused of wartime collaboration. Segev's Wiesenthal is a complicated man, by turns avuncular and prickly, idealistic and self-promoting, but he's ultimately a heroic, necessary figure who forced a world that would rather forget to acknowledge its debt to the dead. (Sept. 7)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
From esteemed Israeli journalist and historian Tom Segev, the first fully documented biography of Simon Wiesenthal, revealing the fascinating truth behind this simultaneously admired, despised, and feared hunter of Nazis.
Simon Wiesenthal was the legendary “Nazi hunter” played by Ben Kingsley and Laurence Olivier on film, a Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to the punishment of Nazi criminals. A hero in the eyes of many, he was also attacked for his unrelenting pursuit of the past, when others preferred to forget.
For this definitive biography, Tom Segev has obtained access to Wiesenthal’s hundreds of thousands of private papers and to sixteen archives, including records of the U.S., Israeli, Polish, and East German secret services. Segev is able to reveal the intriguing secrets of Wiesenthal’s life, including his stunning role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, his controversial investigative techniques, his unlikely friendships with Kurt Wald heim and Albert Speer, and the nature of his rivalry with Elie Wiesel.
Tom Segev has written a brilliant character study of the “hunter” who was driven by his own memories to ensure that the destruction of European Jewry never be forgotten.
About the Author
Tom Segev, who writes a weekly column in Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading daily newspaper, is the author of The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust and other pathbreaking books, including One Palestine, Complete, which was named one of the ten best books of 2000 by the New York Times Book Review. He lives in Jerusalem.
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