The Simon Wiesenthal Center (often abbreviated SWC), with headquarters in Los Angeles, California, was established in 1977. According to its mission statement, it is "an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to repairing the world one step at a time. The Center’s multifaceted mission generates changes through the Snider Social Action Institute and education by confronting antisemitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations."
The organization aims to foster tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. The Center closely interacts on an ongoing basis with a variety of public and private agencies, meeting with elected officials, the United States and foreign governments, diplomats and heads of state. Other issues that the Center deals with include: the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, fighting against ODESSA networks; Holocaust and tolerance education; Middle East Affairs; and extremist groups, neo-Nazism, and hate on the Internet.
The organization is named after Simon Wiesenthal, a former engineer and an Austrian Jew who lost many family members in the Holocaust, and later pledged to hunt down Nazis and bring them to justice. He founded and headed the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna. Simon Wiesenthal had nothing to do with the operation or activities of the SWC other than giving it its name.
The SWC is headed by Rabbi Marvin Hier, its Dean and Founder. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean and Rabbi Meyer May is the Executive Director. The organization publishes a seasonal magazine, Response.
The Center’s educational arm, Museum of Tolerance, was founded in 1993 and hosts 350,000 visitors annually. Some of the programs sponsored by the Museum include:
New York Tolerance Center is a professional development multi-media training facility targeting educators, law enforcement officials, and state/local government practitioners.
Moriah Films, the film division of the SWC, was created to produce theatrical documentaries to educate both national and international audiences.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance is one of many partner organizations of the Austrian Association for Service Abroad (Auslandsdienst) and the corresponding Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (Gedenkdienst).
Through its national and international offices the Center carries out its above mentioned mission of preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
In a second case, the dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center confirmed a report written by Iranian exiles on Iranian religious minorities being forced to wear badges identifying them to Muslims. The confirmation resulted in the Canadian National Post newspaper printing a highly critical article on Iran that created an international uproar. Upon further investigation, the new Iranian sumptuary law proved to be totally false and the confirmation totally unfounded.
On March 8 2007, the head of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stanley Trevor Samuels, was convicted of defamation by a Paris courthouse for accusing the French-based Committee for Charity and Support for the Palestinians (CBSP) of sending funds to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
In its filing of the suit, the CBSP labelled the accusations "ridiculous", stating that its charitable work consisted of providing aid to some 3,000 Palestinian orphans. The court ruled that documents produced by the Wiesenthal Center established no "direct or indirect participation in financing terrorism" on the part of the CBSP, and that the allegations were "seriously defamatory".
The Wiesenthal Centre is appealing the court ruling, which it believed was unjustified.
The center accused the Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ireland of keeping Nazi loot, an allegation deemed "unprofessional in the extreme" by an expert that cleared the museum of wrongdoing. The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese in turn criticised the center for the disproved allegations, saying that the centre had diminished the name of Wiesenthal.