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Famed Nazi hunter left a legacy of tolerance

By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
Published September 21, 2005

When he was traveling in Vienna a few years ago, Walter Loebenberg, founder of the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, met with a man who worked with Simon Wiesenthal.

Wiesenthal was on vacation at the time, but the man agreed to take Loebenberg to Wiesenthal's office, which was hidden in an apartment building.

Wiesenthal, Loebenberg said, had received numerous death threats over the years, and where he worked was known only to a few.

"His office was in extreme disarray," Loebenberg said Tuesday. "He had stuff everywhere. I asked his secretary how he finds anything.

"She said he knows where every piece of paper is."

Loebenberg, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and served in the U.S. Army during WWII, said Wiesenthal had planned to visit the Florida Holocaust Museum several years ago, but was injured in a fall and had to cancel his trip.

"It amazed me how active he was at his age," Loebenberg said. "Still traveling. Still working."

And while capturing Nazis gained Wiesenthal headlines, Loebenberg said it was Wiesenthal's message of tolerance that was most important.

"That," Loebenberg said, "was his whole life."

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