Heinz Fischer Awards Simon Wiesenthal the Grand Order of Merit in Gold for Service to the Republic of Austria

OTS (06/09/05)

On June 9, 2005, Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer awarded Simon Wiesenthal the Grand Order of Merit in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria. One of the reasons stated for granting him the award was that Wiesenthal had made a major contribution by tracking down some of the most notorious Nazi criminals from their post-war hiding places and by bringing them to justice.

According to a press release by the Federal President’s presiding office, Holocaust survivor Wiesenthal, who became known as a Nazi hunter after the end of WW II, had done a great service in denouncing the most severe crimes at a time when his work in Austria was not always made easy. Under the motto, justice not vengeance, Wiesenthal had demonstrated trust in a democratic post-war Austria, a country governed by the rule of law. He had contributed to Austria’s confrontation with its NS past and reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews. The award was presented by Dr. Heinz Fischer during a ceremony at the private apartment of the ninety-six year-old Wiesenthal in Vienna.

Simon Wiesenthal was born in Buczacz in Galicia (now Ukraine) on December 31, 1908. He attended school and studied architecture in Lvov, Vienna and Prague. In 1941, he was arrested by the Germans. Surviving a total of twelve concentration camps, he was liberated from Mauthausen in 1945 by U.S. troops.