WASHINGTON– The Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Co-Chairman, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), and Ranking Members Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) expressed sorrow at the passing of Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who devoted much of his life to documenting the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis and their allies and tracking down war criminals as well as monitoring neo-Nazi and other extremist groups.
“The world has lost a courageous man determined to keep alive the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” said Brownback. “In a very real sense, Simon Wiesenthal was the ‘conscience of the Holocaust.’ His tireless work was fueled by a passion for justice that should inspire others. He challenged us not to be complacent in the face of injustice, hatred, and genocidal forces unleashed in seemingly far-off places like Darfur.”
The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
“Simon Wiesenthal confronted us with the truth about those who masterminded and carried out the Holocaust,” said Smith. “As a testament to the memory of the millions of victims, he gave meaning to the words ‘never again’ by helping us learn from the lessons of the past. Today, as we fight anti-Semitism across the OSCE region, we remember his legacy and act on the lessons of the Holocaust.”
A Ukrainian civil engineer by training, Wiesenthal survived five Nazi death camps during World War II. He lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust. After the war, he made it his life’s work to track down Nazi war criminals, reportedly bringing 1,100 to justice, and opened the Jewish Historical Documentation Center to be a repository of concentration camp testimonials and dossiers on Nazis.
“Simon Wiesenthal once said ‘there is no freedom without justice,’” added Dodd. “The world will not forget his tireless pursuit of justice, as his work brought freedom to millions. The memory of the Holocaust will never fade, and Mr. Wiesenthal did much to ensure future generations will never forget.”
“The murderers who oversaw Hitler’s death camps could never rest,” said Cardin, “because they knew Simon Wiesenthal was pursuing them. Many of those who escaped justice after the end of World War II did not escape it forever, thanks to Simon Wiesenthal’s dedication and determination. His passing challenges all of us to continue his life’s work of keeping alive the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.”
In 1977, the Simon Wiesenthal Center was founded in Los Angeles as an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by confronting contemporary issues including racism, anti-Semitism, terrorism and genocide. The Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier, participated in the U.S. delegation to the Cordoba OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance in June.