Simon Wiesenthal Center


Simon Wiesenthal Center

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (often abbreviated SWC), with headquarters in Los Angeles, California, was established in 1977. According to its mission statement, it is "an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to repairing the world one step at a time. The Center’s multifaceted mission generates changes through the Snider Social Action Institute and education by confronting antisemitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations." [http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=242501 SWC Home > About Us] ]

The Center is accredited as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations, the UNESCO, and the Council of Europe.

The organization aims to foster tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. The Center closely interacts on an ongoing basis with a variety of public and private agencies, meeting with elected officials, the United States and foreign governments, diplomats and heads of state. Other issues that the Center deals with include: the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, fighting against ODESSA networks; Holocaust and tolerance education; Middle East Affairs; and extremist groups, neo-Nazism, and hate on the Internet.

Name and leadership

The organization is named after Simon Wiesenthal, a former engineer and an Austrian Jew who lost many family members in the Holocaust, and later pledged to hunt down Nazis and bring them to justice. He founded and headed the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna. Simon Wiesenthal had nothing to do with the operation or activities of the SWC other than giving it its name.

The SWC is headed by Rabbi Marvin Hier, its Dean and Founder. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean and Rabbi Meyer May is the Executive Director. The organization publishes a seasonal magazine, "Response".

Museum of Tolerance

The Center’s educational arm, Museum of Tolerance, was founded in 1993 and hosts 350,000 visitors annually. Some of the programs sponsored by the Museum include:
* Tools for Tolerance
* Teaching Steps to Tolerance
* Task Force Against Hate
* National Institute Against Hate Crimes
* Tools for Tolerance for Teens

New York Tolerance Center is a professional development multi-media training facility targeting educators, law enforcement officials, and state/local government practitioners.

Moriah Films, the film division of the SWC, was created to produce theatrical documentaries to educate both national and international audiences.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance is one of many partner organizations of the Austrian Association for Service Abroad (Auslandsdienst) and the corresponding Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (Gedenkdienst).

Office locations

The headquarters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is in Los Angeles. However, there are also international offices located at the following cities: New York, Miami, Toronto, Jerusalem, Paris, and Buenos Aires.

Through its national and international offices the Center carries out its above mentioned mission of preserving the memory of the Holocaust.

Library and archives

The Library and Archives of the center in L.A. has grown to a collection of about 50,000 volumes and non-print materials. Moreover, the Archives incorporates photographs, diaries, letters, artifacts, artwork and rare books, which are available to researchers, students and the general public.

Located Ex-Nazis

In November 2005, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem Director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, located Aribert Heim, who had been hiding in Spain for 20 years. The same month, it also gave the name of four suspected former Nazi criminals to German authorities. The names were the first results of Operation Last Chance, a drive launched that year by the center to track down former Nazis for World War II-era crimes before they die of old age.

Featured in "Freedom Writers" film

The center is featured in the real life story-based "Freedom Writers." An exterior view of the center is given, and there are scenes inside the museum, showing simulation entrances to gas chambers in death camps.

Criticism

The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized Hugo Chávez for his controversial statements, including his January 2006 statement that “ [t] he world is for all of us, then, but it so happens that a minority, the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ, the descendants of the same ones that kicked Bolívar out of here and also crucified him in their own way over there in Santa Marta, in Colombia. A minority has taken possession all of the wealth of the world...”Harvard reference
Author = Wiesenthal Center
Year = 2006
Title = SWC Condemns antisemitic statements by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - demands public apology
Journal = Wiesenthal Center
URL = http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nl/content.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=312458&content_id={17D5A467-8F24-4ADA-BCD3-DE4476D7F462}&notoc=1
Access-date = February 15, 2006
.] The Simon Wiesenthal Center omitted the reference to Bolívar without ellipsis, stated that Chávez was referring to Jews, and denounced the remarks as antisemitic by way of his allusions to wealth. Meanwhile, according to "Forward.com", the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela defended Chávez, stating that he was speaking not of Jews, but of South America's white oligarchy. The Weisenthal Center's representative in Latin America replied that Chávez's mention of Christ-killers was "ambiguous at best" and that the "decision to criticize Chávez had been taken after careful consideration". [Perelman, Marc. Venezuela's Jews Defend Leftist President in Flap Over Remarks. Forward.com (January 13, 2006). Available [http://www.embavenez-us.org/news.php?nid=2227 here.] Accessed 11 August 2006.]

In a second case, the dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center confirmed a report written by Iranian exiles on Iranian religious minorities being forced to wear badges identifying them to Muslims. The confirmation resulted in the Canadian National Post newspaper printing a highly critical article on Iran that created an international uproar. Upon further investigation, the new Iranian sumptuary law proved to be totally false and the confirmation totally unfounded.

On March 8 2007, the head of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stanley Trevor Samuels, was convicted of defamation by a Paris courthouse for accusing the French-based Committee for Charity and Support for the Palestinians (CBSP) of sending funds to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

In its filing of the suit, the CBSP labelled the accusations "ridiculous", stating that its charitable work consisted of providing aid to some 3,000 Palestinian orphans. The court ruled that documents produced by the Wiesenthal Center established no "direct or indirect participation in financing terrorism" on the part of the CBSP, and that the allegations were "seriously defamatory".Nazi-hunting centre convicted for defamation. Agence France Presse (March 8, 2007). Available [http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=37453 here.] Accessed 12 March 2007.]

The Wiesenthal Centre is appealing the court ruling, which it believed was unjustified.

The center accused the Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ireland of keeping Nazi loot, an allegation deemed "unprofessional in the extreme" by an expert that cleared the museum of wrongdoing. ["Associated Press"(IHT September 2007) [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/28/europe/EU-GEN-Ireland-Nazi-Loot.php|U.S. expert condemns Simon Wiesenthal Center's claims of Nazi loot in Irish museum] Retrieved 29 Sep 2007] The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese in turn criticised the center for the disproved allegations, saying that the centre had diminished the name of Wiesenthal. [ [http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0121/hunt.html RTÉ News - "President criticises claims against museum"] ]

Notes

See also

* 2006 Iranian sumptuary law controversy

External links

* [http://www.wiesenthal.com/ Simon Wiesenthal Center]
* [http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=2247129 Response Magazine Online Archive]
** [http://www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7BDFD2AAC1-2ADE-428A-9263-35234229D8D8%7D/ResponseIssue1.pdf Response - America Remembers: One Year Later, Remembering the Victims, Pondering the Lessons] Also in the Issue: International Community & the Mideast; Tragedy of Palestinian Children; The Real Obstacles to Peace; Global Terror Update; Internet Used by Terrorists, Racists; Museum of Tolerance
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Wiesenthal.html The Jewish Virtual Library entry for Simon Wiesenthal]
* [http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/641390.html Haaretz 11/03/05]


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