Kasztner, Rezso Rudolf

(1906–57)
   Hungarian Zionist involved in ‘Blood for Goods’ deal. The Kasztner case illustrated the moral dilemma of those who had dealings with the Nazi murderers in order to try and save Jews. During World War II Kasztner, a lawyer from Transylvania, worked in the Zionist office in Budapest, and was drawn into the contacts with the Hungarian authorities for the evacuation of Jews.
   In March 1944, the Germans took over Hungary. Adolph EICHMANN proposed to Kasztner and others that Hungarian Jews be allowed to leave for Palestine and elsewhere in exchange for military trucks and other equipment from neutral countries. This transaction was graphically referred to as Blut fuer Ware (Blood for Goods). Kasztner made a number of trips to Germany and to Geneva where he met officials of the Jewish Agency and the American Joint Distribution Committee, urging them to finance the proposed deal. In August a small transport of 318 Hungarian and Transylvanian Jews was allowed to reach Switzerland. Eichmann and his staff then began moving Jews from Hungary to Bergen-Belsen. In December another 1,368 Jews were taken from there and released in Switzerland. The rest of the Hungarian Jews were liquidated in the last months of the war. After the war Kasztner settled in Palestine. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, he was given a minor government post, and helped publish a Hungarian-language paper.
   In 1953, Malkiol Gruenwald, an Israel journalist, circulated an article accusing Kasztner of having collaborated with the Nazis and facilitated the extermination of the Hungarian Jews, in exchange for saving a number of his relatives and friends. Gruenwald was prosecuted for criminal libel at the instance of the Attorney-General. The proceedings dragged into the open an agonizing chapter of the Holocaust, and aroused intense emotion in Israel and the Jewish world. The judgment of the High Court, in June 1955, criticized Kasztner’s role in scathing terms, and acquitted Gruenwald. The government’s decision to appeal against the verdict became a heated political issue in the Knesset election campaign then in progress. In due course the Supreme Court heard the appeal and reversed the judgment of the High Court, thereby exonerating Kasztner. It was a posthumous victory. In March 1957, nearly a year earlier, Kasztner had been shot in the street by an emotionally disturbed Tel Aviv youth, and had died nine days later.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

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