War years



In June 1941, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. A few days later the last Russians left Lvov and Ukrainian auxiliary troops wearing German uniforms took their place. Wiesenthal was found hiding in a cellar, arrested, and taken to the Brigidki prison in Lvov, along with many other middle-class Jews. He narrowly escaped being shot in a mass execution, and a former acquaintance, now serving with the Ukrainian auxiliary police, helped him escape.

He was soon detained again, however, and forced to work as a sign painter at the Ostbahn Ausbesserungswerke (OAW), the Eastern Railway Repair Works. All Jews were made to give up their homes and the Wiesenthals had to
move into the Lvov ghetto.

In October, Wiesenthal and his wife Cyla were picked up by the SS and taken to the nearby Janowska concentration camp. Simon’s mother remained in the ghetto from where she was finally picked up and forced on a train heading for the Belzec extermination camp. Simon Wiesenthal never learned the exact circumstances of her death.



Towards the middle of the year, Wiesenthal and his wife were both transferred to a labor camp that had been established on the site of the OAW, where Simon was again assigned the job of sign painting. With support from the Polish underground, Cyla is smuggled out of the camp and goes into hiding.Zeichnung


At the beginning of this year, Simon Wiesenthal was taken back to the Janowska concentration camp. While marching to his execution with a group of other prisoners through the Schlauch (the hose), a narrow corridor between two barbed-wire fences, he once more escaped death at the last minute. He was called back by the repair works manager to paint banners for Hitler’s upcoming birthday.

In October he managed to escape from the Janowska camp. After a short period of hiding alone in the woods near Lvov, he joined a group of Jewish partisans.



In June 1944, Wiesenthal was rearrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the Lackie Wielkie slave labor camp. Realizing that partisans were being shot without exception, he undertook a suicide attempt.

He was restored back to health, however, and soon deported to the Plaszow concentration camp where he was assigned to a Sonderkommando, a special prisoner task force made to excavate bodies from mass graves and burn them, in order to cover up the mass extermination. The camp was to be evacuated because of the approaching Russian troops. A long and agonizing journey ensued for those prisoners who were still alive – to Auschwitz, via Gross-Rosen, and on to Buchenwald,
on foot or in train cars, under rigorous surveillance. On February 9, 1945,
Wiesenthal and the other prisoners who had survived the trek arrived at the
Mauthausen concentration camp.