I’ve just finished reading a great book:
‘NAZI HUNTER – THE WIESENTHAL FILE
(How Simon Wiesenthal hunted down the Nazi war criminals)’
By Alan Levy
There is so much I could ‘say’ about this book but I don’t want to ruin it for those of you who haven’t read it yet but want to read it. I will say this, however. Whilst Levy does posit his ‘guess’ as to why Simon Wiesenthal was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it’s not the same as my guess. I don’t think I’m giving anything away about the book by saying why I think he didn’t get it (but Elie Wiesel was award the prize).
When Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee (according to Wikipedia) called him a “messenger to mankind,” stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler’s death camps,” as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace,” Wiesel had delivered a powerful message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to humanity.
Simon Wiesenthal and Elie Wiesel did not like each other (that’s an understatement!) and Simon’s opinion of Elie Wiesel was very different from that of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
It’s my guess that the Norwegian Nobel Committee saw Simon Wiesenthal as very different from Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. I think that whilst, correctly, they saw Mandela and MLK as forgiveness personified, they incorrectly saw Wiesenthal as the opposite, as a man bent on revenge, as a man consumed with anger, as the personification of vengeance.
My ‘take’ on Simon Wiesenthal is as follows:
Wiesenthal sought and fought for JUSTICE and that is very different from revenge. He also wanted to ensure that the world knew exactly what happened under the Nazis and, very importantly, not only what happened to the Jews but to other groups of people. Simon was very concerned that Gypsies – the Romani People – were the forgotten victims and he fought hard for justice for them. Levy makes the point that Simon kept the Holocaust in the news from 1945, not just from the 1960s when others started talking about it on the world stage and that if he hadn’t, the likes of Elie Wiesel would have found it much harder than he did to educate people on the subject because it would have been ‘forgotten’. Wiesenthal kept the subject alive when others were getting on with the rebuilding of their lives.
Simon Wiesenthal knew that education and ensuring that the world knows what happened in the 30’s and 40’s was, and still is, crucial in our efforts to ensure as best we can that such depravity does not happen again. If revenge was what it was about for Wiesenthal, he could easily have had lots of Nazis, hiding in South America, shot or otherwise ‘knocked off’ but he didn’t – for Simon, these murderers had to be brought back alive and put on trial so that the world could hear the evidence from camp survivors. It was about education. I’m sure that many Nazis lived full, long lives on the run, in hiding, because of Simon’s insistence that they be caught and brought to trial rather than killed. If Simon had been all about revenge, he could have binned the complexities of catching Nazis and bringing them to justice by just having them located and shot. As for Eichmann’s death sentence, Simon was in two minds about it (I’ll let you read the book for the detail)
In my view, Simon Wiesenthal should have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and the fact that he wasn’t has, in my opinion, rendered the prize pointless/valueless/worthless. Of course, there has been lots of controversy over the years concerning some of those who have been awarded the Prize and those who, in the opinion of many, should have been awarded the Prize but were overlooked. However, I don’t want to go off on that tangent.
‘NAZI HUNTER – THE WIESENTHAL FILE’ by Alan Levy. I recommend the book.