Rudolf Kastner

De facto head of the Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee in Budapest, Hungary.,Between May and July 1944, Hungary’s Jews were deported to the gas chambers at Auschwitz at the rate of 12,000 people a day. Kastner negotiated with Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS officer, to allow 1,684 Jews to leave instead for Switzerland on what became known as the Kastner train, in exchange for money, gold and diamonds.

Kastner moved to Israel after the war, becoming a spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1952. In 1953 he was accused of having been a Nazi collaborator in a pamphlet self-published by Malchiel Gruenwald, a freelance writer. The allegation stemmed from his relationship with Eichmann and another SS officer, Kurt Becher, and from his having given positive character references after the war for Becher and two other SS officers, thus allowing Becher to escape prosecution for war crimes.

The Israeli government sued Gruenwald for libel on Kastner’s behalf, resulting in a trial that lasted 18 months, and a ruling in 1955 that Kastner had, in the words of Judge Benjamin Halevy, “sold his soul to the devil”.

By saving the Jews on the Kastner train, while failing to warn others that their “resettlement” was in fact deportation to the gas chambers, Kastner had sacrificed the mass of Jewry for a chosen few, the judge said. The verdict triggered the fall of the Israeli Cabinet

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