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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Wiesenthal honoured at graveside
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Herzliya, Israel

The funeral of Simon Wiesenthal
Mourners from all over the world attended Simon Wiesenthal's burial
Simon Wiesenthal, the renowned Nazi-hunter, who died in Vienna on Tuesday, has been buried in Israel.

His family were joined in the simple ceremony by foreign dignitaries, Israeli representatives and ordinary people.

Many of them said they had come to honour his commitment to finding those responsible for the Holocaust.

Just inside the entrance to the cemetery in the town of Herzliya, a mound of sand sat. Beside it a microphone was set near an open grave, waiting for the funeral procession of Simon Wiesenthal.

I asked a few young people, and they said: 'Who was he?' I was so disappointed! I hope this will mean teachers revive the subject in schools and he's remembered as a giant Jew
Leah
Mourner

Gathering around it in the last of the summer heat were the mourners.

One woman, Leah, told me that, by tracking down Nazi war criminals, she felt Simon Wiesenthal had brought dignity back to the Jewish people.

Another mourner sat on a nearby bench, leaking tears. "I was there, in Europe" she said. "I'm still alive, and I don't need anyone to give me my dignity. But Simon Wiesenthal played an important role in an active part of history."

Unclear legacy

But the question of what Simon Wiesenthal meant to Israel more generally is still unclear. He lived his whole life in Europe.

The Jewish burial prayer was said over his body - twice. Once for the man himself, and once for the Holocaust victims he devoted so much of his life to

And despite his personal and political links to Israel, the crowd who came to mourn him did not number more than 2-300.

Efraim Zuroff runs the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel. He says it will be interesting to see what Mr Wiesenthal's legacy in Israel will be.

"On the one hand, you have all the superlatives and the praise," he says.

"But it remains to be seen what his legacy will be in Israel. For the most part, he wasn't that well-known; nowhere near as well-known as he was in Europe. He was really the quintessential European."

'Never forgetting'

That did not stop those at the graveside from feeling that he spoke for them.

One of those to speak at his funeral was a representative of the Israeli government.

"Simon Wiesenthal," he said, "acted in the name of all of us - in the name of the Jewish nation."

But the battle is on now to get a new generation to remember the man who said he never forgot the victims of the Holocaust - even for a day.

Outside of his family, few of Israel's young people were seen standing round his graveside on Friday. Many of those who were here noticed their absence - one of them was Leah.

"I asked a few young people, and they said: 'Who was he?' I was so disappointed! I hope this will mean teachers revive the subject in schools and he's remembered as a giant Jew."

As the funeral drew to a close, the mourners gathered round the burial site and watched as the body of Simon Wiesenthal was covered with earth, and then with flowers.

The Jewish burial prayer was said over his body - twice. Once for the man himself, and once for the Holocaust victims he devoted so much of his life to.




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