STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Simon Wiesenthal has died. He spent decades hunting Nazi war criminals, and he helped to find a leader of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, who was hiding in Argentina. Simon Wiesenthal was himself a survivor of the Holocaust. He said he continued hunting Nazis the rest of his life because, in another world, he might meet again with those the Nazis killed during World War II.
(Soundbite from BBC)
Mr. SIMON WIESENTHAL (Holocaust Survivor): I am a religious man, and maybe the religion is true, and they say that after our world, there's another world, too, and we will come to this other world, and for me, I will see those millions and they will ask what you have done after our death.
INSKEEP: That was Simon Wiesenthal speaking to the BBC. One person who knew Mr. Wiesenthal well is Rabbi Marvin Hier, who's the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. That's a Jewish human rights organization headquartered in Los Angeles. Rabbi Hier, thanks for joining us.
Rabbi MARVIN HIER (Simon Wiesenthal Center): It's a sad day, and I'm happy to talk about a great man.
INSKEEP: The obituaries are describing him as the most intrepid hunter of Nazi war criminals. What made him so?
Rabbi HIER: Well, it was something he never imagined. He was an architect by profession. He thought he would be beautifying communities. Instead, he was called upon to bring to justice those who had destroyed communities. He was a person that felt compelled to do this because nobody else was doing it. When he was in the camps, he crumpled up a list of some of the brutal guards and murderers, and weighing less than 90 pounds, on May 9th, 1945, they brought him in to US Army intelligence, and he said in Yiddish, `This is the list of the murderers,' and that started his work. It was hard work. He was not trained for his position, he was not an intelligence officer, and he did it, you know, all alone, and there were a lot of skeptics. People said, `What are you doing? The war's over.' He couldn't free himself from it, because he often said to me, `It wasn't an act of vengeance.' He said, `I'm doing it for my grandchildren, because if the murderers of the past got away with it, the murderers of the future will get away with it.'
INSKEEP: Can you pick out for us just one story that you remember well of a war criminal that Mr. Wiesenthal hunted down and how he did that?
Rabbi HIER: He took great pride in the fact that Anne Frank was known all over the world. Everybody knew the life of Anne Frank. And he was the one that brought Karl Silberbauer to justice, the person who arrested Anne Frank. He said, `I wanted so much for Anne Frank to live. A small measure of justice is to know that the person who arrested her did not get away with the crime.' And he often said to me, `Even the ones that were never caught, so long as I was out there, it was a small measure of justice that each and every one of them had to go to sleep at night thinking, "Maybe Simon Wiesenthal will reach me tomorrow."' `That, too,' he said, `is a small measure of justice.' He was the only one that did that, and I think his legacy is about what one determined man can accomplish in life.
INSKEEP: That's Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center headquartered in Los Angeles. Mr. Wiesenthal died today at his home in Vienna. He died in his sleep at the age of 96.
This is NPR News.