Simon Wiesenthal

The Life and Legends
Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends. Doubleday. 2010. c.448p. ISBN 9780385519465. $35. BIOG
Nazi hunter Wiesenthal is an iconic figure in modern Jewish history. Given that Israeli journalist Segev is somewhat of an iconoclast, it may be surprising that he does not seek to challenge Wiesenthal's heroic status; instead, he presents a judiciously organized and researched examination of Wiesenthal's life and the images of himself he projected. Segev cogently argues that to understand Wiesenthal it is necessary to situate him in the multiple spheres of modern Jewish life. A Holocaust survivor who lived in Austria among the remnants of European Jewry, Wiesenthal had deep ties to the United States, whose soldiers liberated him and whose Jewish community provided material and emotional support for his work. Wiesenthal's grandchildren, meanwhile, are mostly Israelis. Segev subjects Wiesenthal's autobiography to critical examination, and while he finds that some details are exaggerated, he shows that such slanders as the accusation that Wiesenthal was a Nazi collaborator are not valid.
VERDICT The man who emerges from this text is ultimately more complex, and indeed likable, than the mythologized figure. Segev's study should be the standard for many years.

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