Childhood and Youth


Historische Ansicht von BuczaczJüdisches Viertel in Lemberg/Galizien

Simon, the son of Asher and Rosa Wiesenthal, was born on December 31, 1908, in Buczacz, near Lvov (in what is today the Ukraine). At the time of Wiesenthal’s birth, Buczacz, was a small town with a predominately Jewish population in the autonomous region of Galicia on the eastern fringe of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The history of this region was marked by numerous pogroms, which were to reach their tragic climax – not only for the Wiesenthal family – with the invasion of the German troops in World War II.

Asher Wiesenthal, who supported his family as a wholesale merchant trading in sugar, was considered relatively affluent in a region that was otherwise economically poor. Young Wiesenthal grew up in a traditional Jewish environment, whose culture was strongly influenced by the Hassidic “miracle rabbis”.  He was to remain an avowed but not a practicing Jew until his death.


Simon Wiesenthal (1. Reihe Mitte) im Kreis seiner Schulkollegen, 1924

When the Cossacks invaded Buczacz during the First World War and after her husband was killed in battle on the Russian front as a reservist in the Imperial Austrian army, Rosa Wiesenthal fled with Simon and his younger brother Hillel to Vienna.  The lived with distant relatives in the city’s second district, where the two boys attended grade school in the Bäuerlegasse.

As soon as the Russians retreated from Galicia, in 1917, the Wiesenthals returned to Buczacz, in order to try to retrieve what was left of their property - a warehouse and their residential home.


Jüdischer Friedhof in BuczaczJüdischer Friedhof in Buczacz

Simon Wiesenthal was admitted to the Buczacz Gymnasium, a secondary school attended mainly by Jewish children.  There he made the acquaintance of Cyla Müller, who was later to become his wife.  In the same year, his brother died as a result of an accident.


His mother remarried and moved to Dolina, a small town in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, where her second husband owned a brick factory.  Simon stayed behind in Buczacz, lodging in the home of Cyla’s family, to finish school in the Gymnasium.  He only spent holidays in Dolina.