Analysis: The price one pays for seeking justice

By Efraim Zuroff, September 17, 2010

As someone accustomed to hate mail, death threats, and assorted negative responses to my efforts to help facilitate the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, perhaps I should not have been surprised by what happened to me recently, but I have to say that the immediacy of the attack in question, and its abhorrent content, gave me pause for reflection about my chosen mission in life and the person who inspired me to undertake it.

On September 3, an unknown person went into my biography on the English-language Wikipedia and edited some details about my education and graduate degrees, which he or she replaced with the suggestion that I moved to Israel in 1970 "to join Mossad. He [EZ] was directly involved in the assassination of numerous people - not only Palestinians."

Those wondering about the timing of this nefarious accusation probably missed last week's major scoop, that famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal worked for the Israeli secret service (Mossad) for about a decade, and it was Mossad which financed his Vienna office and even paid him a very modest monthly wage of $300.

Even though I knew Simon Wiesenthal for almost three decades, was in contact with him on various cases, and considered myself to be very well acquainted with his life and career, which frankly were among the factors which inspired me to follow in his footsteps, the news that he worked for the Mossad came as a shock.

Not that it in any way changed my image of him. Whether he had help or not, his perseverance and dedication remain legendary, but it felt good to know that he was not entirely the lone crusader that he was often described to be, and that he was able to sustain a mutually beneficial working relationship with the Mossad, which no doubt enhanced their work and his.

The question now remains why Wiesenthal never mentioned his Mossad link, even though he was usually quite open about so many other aspects of his career. Of course, in theory, such clandestine ties should remain under wraps, but I believe there was more to it in this case, which brings me to the Wikipedia rewrite by some anonymous antisemite.

I think Wiesenthal feared that such a revelation would inevitably link the efforts to bring Nazis to justice to the Middle East conflict, a link that would negatively affect his life's mission.

And that is apparently also why I found myself accused of assassinating "numerous people - not only Palestinians," which is unfortunately the price one pays for trying to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice.

Efraim Zuroff is director of the Wiesenthal Centre in Israel. His most recent book, "Operation Last Chance; One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice" was published late last year by Palgrave/Macmillan

    Last updated: 11:47am, September 21 2010