SIMON WIESENTHAL by Hella Pick

SIMON WIESENTHAL

A Life in Search of Justice
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A full, lucid, and moving biography of the Nazi hunter who became the ``unwelcome conscience'' of post-Holocaust Europe. Pick, diplomatic editor and feature writer of the Guardian since 1961, got Simon Wiesenthal's cooperation for this biography without ceding editorial control. This allows the author, who has long covered the careers of Wiesenthal and fellow Austrians Kurt Waldheim and Bruno Kreisky, to go well beyond her subject's published memoirs, The Murderers Among Us (1967) and Justice Not Vengeance (1990). While recording Wiesenthal's monumental achievements in both tracking down Nazi war criminals and protecting the history of the Holocaust, Pick does not refrain from painting her subject as egotistical, inconsiderate, and ``unsuited to teamwork.'' As a young man, Wiesenthal seemed headed for a career as an architect. The war changed everything. Pick provides some psychological clues to Wiesenthal's obsession with preserving Holocaust memory, including the trauma he felt at not being there when his mother was seized. His photographic memory, facility with languages, and tenacity combined with uncanny luck to preserve him from firing squads and crematoria lines (he spent time in 13 concentration camps), place him with an American war crimes unit after the war and, eventually, on the world stage, where he did battle with the likes of Adolf Eichmann, Dr. Josef Mengele, the Israeli Mossad, the Vatican, other Nazi hunters, the World Jewish Congress, and Bruno Kreisky. Providing a moving glimpse into the private life of this international icon, Pick quotes wife Cyla complaining, ``I am not married to a man. I am married to thousands, or maybe millions of dead.'' There is no more disturbing memory for the West than that of the genocidal atrocities committed in WW II, and no more disturbing--and decorated--guardian of this memory than the complex man depicted here. (40 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1996
ISBN: 1-55553-273-X
Page count: 349pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996