Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kastner

Recently, Rudolf Kastner's papers were handed over to Yad Vashem and a big hullaballoo was made that these would basically exonerate him.

I have a friend who was a Betari since the 1930s, Stephen Esrati, with whom I correspond via the American Betar history discussion list, and here's something he just published there (with slight editing):-

Ben Hecht was too easy on Rudolf Kastner, the Hungarian "Zionist" leader who sold his soul to Adolf Eichmann. You have to read Dr. Rudolf Vrba's book - "I Escaped From Auschwitz" (2003, Barricade Books, Fort Lee, N.J. [and now there's a new paperback edition at Robson Books])to learn just how culpable Kastner was in the extermination of the first 400,000 Jews of Budapest.

Until I read Vrba, I thought Kastner's greatest crime was that he saved himself and his friends and family from the Nazis, that he testified at Nuremberg on behalf of SS Col Kurt (Gold Teeth) Becher, and that he lied about it all.

Now I know that Kastner got the warning for which Vrba worked so hard in plenty of time not only to warn the Jews of Hungary of what was in store for them (certainly, not "resettlement") but also to lay the groundwork for resistance. It turns out that
Eichmann had only 140 Germans in Budapest to help him deport one million people. And they all got on the cattle cars willingly, sheep led to the slaughter.


Here's Elliot Jager's recent op-ed.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a holocaust survivor from Miskolc,Hungary.I read Vrba's book and I am totally humbled by the effort he took to notify us about the gaschambers of Auschwitz, I mourn the man.It is true that if we knew what was abut to happen to us some daring people could have escaped. But most of us wouldn't have believed what was about to happen. A young girl came back from the killing fields of Galizia tellling us about the massacres happening there, but she was not believed, they said that she has gone mad saying that they were shooting naked jews into giant pits.
Kastners negotiations with Eichman took place during and after the trains were on their way to Auschwitz.

Paul Bogdanor said...

All of these facts were known at the time of the trial. Hecht made it clear that there were only a few Germans. The deportations were carried out by the Hungarians. And regardless of the Vrba-Wetzler report about Auschwitz, all Jewish leaders knew about the Holocaust by 1944.

Vrba's book isn't wholly accurate. He falsely accused of collaboration any Jewish leader who negotiated to save Jews. He wrote this about the anti-Zionist Weissmandl in Slovakia as well as the Zionist Kastner in Hungary. Vrba even alleged, without any evidence, that Eichmann had Kastner marching around in a Nazi uniform!

Vrba couldn't understand that both Weissmandl and Kastner thought that negotiations would achieve mass rescue. They weren't just trying to save their own necks. Weissmandl devised the futile "Europa Plan" to ransom all of the surviving Jews. Kastner fell for Eichmann's "Blood-for-Goods" offer to exchange a million Jews for goods from the Allies.

Needless to say, the murderers simply pretended to negotiate while continuing to annihilate. But this was the catastrophic result of Nazi deception and not of Jewish collaboration.

The best discussion of this point is by Braham:-

http://yad-vashem.org.il/about_holocaust/studies/vol32/pdf/E021_058.pdf