Friday, April 16, 2010

Nazism / Jewish Holocaust

Hero or Traitor? Film Asks Why Jew Dealt with Nazis
By Marilyn H. Karfeld
Cleveland Jewish News, April 16, 2010
"The man who saved more Jews in the Holocaust than any other is a name you’ve never heard. His story is morally complex, twisted, and filled with intrigue, conspiracy and murder. In 1944, Rezso (sometimes called Rudolf) Kasztner, a Hungarian Jew who was part of a Zionist rescue group, negotiated face-to-face with Adolf Eichmann to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz and near-certain death. A decade later, tarred as a traitor and Nazi collaborator in his adopted Israel, Kasztner was assassinated in Tel Aviv by a right-wing Jewish extremist. His daughter Zsuzsi, only 9 at the time of her father's trial, and her three daughters have crusaded for years in Israel to resurrect him as a hero. In the engrossing documentary 'Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt with Nazis,' filmmaker Gaylen Ross investigates the story of the enigmatic Hungarian, digging beneath the slander, mythology and rumor to raise some fundamental questions about heroism, morality and patriotism. In the final months of World War II, desperate for supplies, Eichmann offered to sell one million Jewish lives for trucks and war materiel. The Western allies were not interested, but stalling for time, Kasztner assured the architect of the Final Solution that trucks would come if Eichmann kept the Jews alive.
In the meantime, Kasztner paid $1,000 a head for nearly 1,700 Jews, including orphans, and arranged for a train to carry them to Switzerland. Loaded with Jews, the train detoured for several months to Bergen-Belsen while negotiations continued. Ten days after the train arrived in Switzerland, Kasztner returned to Germany and Eastern Europe, bargaining with the Nazis for truck transports to Switzerland for thousands of Jews interned in concentration camps or in hiding. Reportedly, he also arranged to transfer 18,000 Jews headed for Auschwitz to a labor camp in Austria. Initially extolled as a hero in Israel, Kasztner came to be reviled as a traitor who made a secret deal with the Nazis to save his own family and friends, rather than warning Jews about the fate that awaited them at Auschwitz. In 1953, an Israeli pamphleteer accused him of being a collaborator whose actions led to the deaths of nearly a half-million Hungarian Jews. The Israeli government filed suit for libel on behalf of Kasztner, but in effect, he became the defendant in the inflammatory trial. Documents showed that Kasztner wrote affidavits on behalf of Nazi officers who faced war-crimes trials. In his 300-page verdict, the judge concluded Kasztner 'sold his soul to the devil.' In 1957, a right-wing Jewish extremist assassinated Kasztner in Tel Aviv. Posthumously, Israel’s Supreme Court overturned the libel verdict, a fact that was buried in the newspapers. [...]"

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Jones,

    Sadly, Ms. Ross's film is fatally flawed. It contains a number of errors and presents a distorted picture of the Holocaust in Hungary.

    To provide one example: in the film the historian Shlomo Aronson is interviewed. He credits Kasztner with saving 18,000 Jews who were sent to Austria. Aronson has no evidence for this. The truth is, as was established both at the Kaztner trial and he later Eichmann trial, that the reason these Jews were sent to Austria was as a result of request from the Mayor of Vienna to Eichmann's boss for slave labour. This was request was passed down to Eichmann who had no real choice but to comply. Kasztner, despite what his supporters claim, had nothing to do with this.

    You may wish to I suggest the following article published by Yad Vashem:

    Randolph L. Braham,"Rescue Operations in Hungary: Myths and Realities," Yad Vashem Studies XXXII (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2004). This article is currently available free on line at the following location:

    Ms. Ross has gone out of her way in the film to try and portray Kasztner as some kind of hero. This is not only a false picture, it is opposite of the case. As the latest scholarly research on the subject shows, Kasztner, as his accusers have historically argued, was indeed a collaborator with the Nazis.

    This can be seen by reading Dr. Eli Reichenthal's essay, "The Kasztner Affair Revisted," contained in Randolph L. Braham (ed.) The Holocaust: Essays and Documents, (Columbia University Press, 2009) pp. 99-136. For anybody that reads Hebrew, Dr. Reichenthal has elaborated on this in his book that has been published in the last week by Ben Gurion University Press: Was he indeed murdered twice? The Kasztner affair and the Holocaust in Hungary (Hebrew).


Please be constructive in your comments. - AJ