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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Vienna mourns 'mentor and teacher'
By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Vienna

It was a simple ceremony of farewell.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel speaks at the funeral of Simon Wiesenthal in the chapel at Vienna's Central Cemetery
Many political leaders gave speeches during the service
Simon Wiesenthal's coffin, draped in black, was wheeled into the Jewish ceremonial hall at Vienna's Central Cemetery.

The hall was rebuilt in the 1960s after the original building was destroyed by the Nazis in the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938.

There was tight security, a matter of course for many Jewish events in Austria.

The authorities are keen to prevent any anti-Semitic incidents in a country which is still haunted by memories of the Holocaust.

Seated around the coffin were Mr Wiesenthal's daughter Pauline, her husband, and many of Austria's political and religious leaders, including Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.

Vienna-base

Chancellor Schuessel, Mayor of Vienna Michael Haeupl, and leader of Vienna's Jewish Community Ariel Muzicant were among those who made speeches paying tribute to Mr Wiesenthal.

Mr Muzicant said he had learnt from Mr Wiesenthal how important it was to fight for justice.

Simon Wiesenthal in a 1999 file photo
Wiesenthal: Hailed as the 'conscience of the Holocaust'
"He was a mentor, a teacher, someone who gave us an example, and we are trying to follow in his footsteps which are often much too big for us," Mr Muzicant said.

Mr Haeupl noted that Mr Wiesenthal once said he had chosen to live in Vienna, after he was released from the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945, because it was a good place to undertake his life's work of tracking down suspected Nazi war criminals.

Many Austrians were actively involved in the Nazi regime.

Mr Haeupl said it was important Mr Wiesenthal had remained in Vienna to uncover the past.

'Great' man

Also attending the ceremony was a man who had known Simon Wiesenthal in Mauthausen, where they were both prisoners.

Leon Zelman, the head of the Jewish Welcome Service in Vienna, is well-known in Austria. He has told hundreds of Austrian children about the Holocaust.

Simon Wiesenthal's daughter Pauline Kreisberg at the funeral
Simon Wiesenthal's daughter Pauline Kreisberg flew in from Israel

He admitted he had not always agreed with Mr Wiesenthal - but he paid tribute to his life's work.

"I remember I was together with him in Mauthausen, but our ways were maybe different. He was right to bring people to court - I accepted it. But my way was with the young people, for the future," he said.

After the ceremony many people filed past the coffin to greet Mr Wiesenthal's daughter, Pauline Kreisberg, who had flown in from Israel, where Mr Wiesenthal will be buried.

Franz Mitterbacher, a non-Jewish Austrian, who was born in the year Mr Wiesenthal was freed from Mauthausen, said he and his wife had wanted to pay tribute to a great man.

"Simon Wiesenthal is, for my generation, a person who made great efforts to resolve the damages of the Second World War done to the Jews in Europe," he said.

"I didn't know Simon Wiesenthal personally, but my wife and I felt it was necessary to come here to say goodbye."


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