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October 12, 1984 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-10-12

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Friday, October 12, 1984



The Simon Wiesenthal Center:

Activism Or
Hollywood Hype?


This famous photo
was initially used by
the Wiesenthal
Center as part of
their stationery but
was dropped after
complaints from


Hier, not Wiesenthal, is
the operative name at
the nation's most influen-
tial Holocaust center,
where Rabbi Marvin
Hier raises a great deal
of money, publicity and

The Simon Wiesenthal
Center, the nation's largest
institution devoted to the
study of the Holocaust, is
essentially the fulfillment of
one man's vision, reflecting
his personality and style in
keeping alive memories of
the Holocaust and combat-
ting anti-Semitism today.
But that man is not Simon Wiesenthal. The famed Nazi
hunter and advocate of justice has given the Los Angeles-
based Center his name, and with it, recognition and
stature. The man who has given the Center form and

substance, though, is a 45-year-old Orthodox rabbi from New
York named Marvin Hier.

To understand the Wiesenthal Center one must first
understand Rabbi Hier, a man who, supporters and critics
agree, is a genius at what he does. He has an uncanny abili-
ty to accomplish his dreams, to inspire people, to attract
publicity for his cause, to raise a great deal of funds —
and a great deal of controversy.
Admirers point to Rabbi Hier's long list of accomplish-
ments at the Wiesenthal Center. In less than seven years
of existence it has received contributions from well over
200,000 regular donors, many of whom have never given
money to Jewish causes, making it one of the largest
Jewish organizations in the world. The current facility in-
cludes a museum, library and research facilities. An am-
bitious expansion program has just been launched which,
at a cost of $30 million, will nearly quadruple its size. The
new site will feature a much-enlarged Holocaust museum,
a 500-seat lecture hall, a film and video production studio,
a large film vault, a 5,000-volume research library, and
classrooms and offices for use by Yeshiva University of
Los Angeles, which is affiliated with the Center, and the
Center itself.
More than its physical growth, though, the Center has

made an international
reputation for itself through
its museum, its Academy
Award-winning documen-
tary on the Holocaust, en-
titled "Genocide," and its
increasing involvement as a
watchdog against current
anti-Semitism in the U.S.
and around the world.
Among its social activities, the Wiesenthal Center led
the boycott against CBS TV for allowing pro PLO actress
Vanessa Redgrave to portray a Holocaust heroine in "Play-
ing For Time;" it spearheaded the national campaign
against the Statute of Limitations on Nazi war crimes; and
it brought international attention to the case of Raoul
Wallenberg, leading to honorary U.S. citizenship for the
Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish lives
during World War II.
The Wiesenthal Center has also published a book of 50
articles by leading Holocaust scholars as a companion to
"Genocide," produces a weekly radio news program,
started a videotape record of Holocaust survivors, and has
recently published volume one of a proposed annual book
of scholarly discussion of the Holocaust.
Critics, however, say that for all of its successes, the
Wiesenthal Center lacks substance. They charge that it
is more concerned with raising money than putting it to
good use. They point to the fact that it has evolved from
"The Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies" to
simply "The Simon Wiesenthal Center" as proof that it
has broadened its scope and now concentrates more on at-
tracting publicity and media attention than producing__
research and scholarship. (In truth, the Wiesenthal Center
has avoided specific definitions of its functions and goals,
characterizing itself as "the largest institution of its kind
in North America.")
The Wiesenthal Center has been a sacrosanct institu-




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