Wednesday, September 21, 2005

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Simon Wiesental 1908-2005

This revered old Gentleman became known all over the world as "the Nazi hunter of Vienna"
He was born in the Ukraine before the Russian revolution in 1917, and as a survivor of the Holocaust (which killed 89 members of his family) he dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals, especially those associated with the Concentration camps.

His list of catches grew long over the years and included Adolf Eichmann, who was caught by Israeli intelligence officers after Wiesenthal informed them he was hiding in Argentina. He explained that the driving force behind his work was not revenge, but simply the desire to make sure these crimes were not forgotten and that justice would be done, and he added: "When I die and have to stand before all the murdered people from the camps, I want to be able to say: I didn't forget you.."

Wiesenthal's work was however not always welcome if it interfered with the more important issue of The Cold War where many former employees of The Third Reich were put to good use by both the Eastern and Western governments. One man he never caught was Josef Mengele, who had been the head of medical experiments on human beings in the concentration camps. Hiding in South America for many years. Mengele died from a stroke in 1979 and although no evidence exists that Mengele worked on science projects after the war, this was not the case for another interesting German man of medicine: Hubertus Strughold.
Strughold was captured after the war and taken to America where he became one of the top figures in the American Space programme (led by Wernher von Braun who had headed the Nazi V2-rocket programme) Strughold spent many years working for NASA, which earned him several awards and honours plus the title of "Father of Space Medicine"
The unpleasant fact was that much of his knowledge about how the human body performed under high air pressure and in weightless condition, came from experimenting with inmates from concentration camps and mentally retarded people before WWII.
Some of his subordinates and collaborators were trialed at Nuremberg and later imprisoned or executed for their contributions to science and medicine, but people like Strughold and von Braun were appearently way too important for that.
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