The death of Simon Wiesenthal this week at 96 reminds us of some indivisible moral truths bequeathed to us by the Holocaust: that freedom cannot exist without justice; that guilt and responsibility rest with each individual; that one person can make a difference.
Wiesenthal emerged from the Nazi hell convinced of those principles, and he spent the rest of his life putting them in action. He helped bring some 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice, including Adolf Eichmann, Treblinka commandant Franz Stangl and the man who arrested Anne Frank, Karl Silberbauer. His exposure of Majdanek camp guard Hermine Braunsteiner, living quietly in a Queens neighborhood, led directly to the creation of the United States Office of Special Investigations, which continues to be the most effective Nazi-hunting organization in the world.
Most important, he made himself and his Nazi-hunting mission into a legend. In so doing he guaranteed that no Nazi anywhere would sleep easy, knowing Wiesenthal was out there looking for him.