Thursday, September 02, 2010

Israel / Simon Wiesenthal

Wiesenthal Worked for Israeli Spy Agency, Book Alleges
By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times, September 2, 2010
Photo: "Simon Wiesenthal in 1999." (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)
"Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who gained worldwide fame for decades as a one-man Nazi-hunting operation, was in fact frequently on the payroll of the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, a new biography asserts. The assertion, based on numerous documents and interviews with three people said to be Mr. Wiesenthal's Mossad handlers, punctures not only a widely held belief about how he operated; it also suggests a need to re-evaluate the standard view that the Israeli government took no interest in tracking down Nazis until the 1960 capture in Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, and little thereafter. Mr. Wiesenthal died in 2005 at the age of 96 in his Vienna home. 'This requires us to adjust in some small way our view of history,' said Tom Segev, the author of the new book 'Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends,' which is being published by Doubleday this week in the United States and simultaneously in six other countries. Mr. Segev, who is Israeli and a columnist for the newspaper Haaretz here, is the author of half a dozen other books, mostly about Israeli history. In a telephone interview, he said he had been given unfettered access to Mr. Wiesenthal's papers -- some 300,000 of them, previously closed to the public -- by Mr. Wiesenthal's daughter, Paulinka Kreisberg. While reading through Mr. Wiesenthal's correspondence, Mr. Segev came across names he did not recognize and discovered they were Mossad agents and handlers. He interviewed three of them and named two in the book.
Mr. Segev said that Mr. Wiesenthal was first employed by the political department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, a forerunner to the Mossad, and then by the agency itself. It financed his first office in Vienna in 1960, paid him a monthly salary and provided him with an Israeli passport, the biography says. Mr. Wiesenthal's codename was 'Theocrat.' His main task was to help locate Nazi criminals, including Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution, and especially to watch out for neo-Nazis and provide information on the activities of former Nazis in Arab countries, the book says. It also says that Mr. Wiesenthal was part of a largely unknown earlier attempt to trap Eichmann in Austria in the last days of 1949. According to the book, an Israeli agent who was helping Mr. Wiesenthal probably caused the operation to fail when he regaled fellow New Year's drinkers in local bars with stories of Israel's recently concluded war of independence. Word spread that an Israeli was present and Eichmann's planned visit to his wife and child was abruptly called off, the book says. [...]"

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