Justice, Not Vengeance, by Simon Wiesenthal
Simon Wiesenthal, who has devoted his life to hunting down Nazis, believes that “guilt cannot be forgiven but only paid for by expiation.” In his memoirs, which created a furor when they were published in Austria (where he now lives) in 1988, Wiesenthal explores the lack of remorse among former Austrian Nazis in the larger context of that country’s approach to its past. This is not an autobiography in the strict sense—those wishing a fuller account of his life should turn to The Murderers Among Us (1967); rather, Wiesenthal shows here how his own pursuit of war criminals came to be entangled in the net of Austrian politics. Appropriately, Justice Not Vengeance reaches its climax in a narrative of his battles with the late Austrian chancellor, Bruno Kreisky.
The contrast between Kreisky, the product of an assimilated Viennese Jewish family, and Wiesenthal could hardly be starker. Wiesenthal is an Ostjude (East European Jew), born in 1908 into a traditional religious family in Buczacz, a small town in the easternmost corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire (also the birthplace of the Nobel Prizewinning novelist S.Y. Agnon). He had an early brush with anti-Semitism: in 1915, first the Cossacks and then Ukrainians stormed Buczacz, causing the family to flee to Vienna.
About the Author
Jacob Heilbrunn is a writer in Washington, D.C.