New books, film find hidden hero of Holocaust

Fri May 23, 2008 4:16pm EDT
 
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By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - History has not been kind to Rezso Kasztner.

He saved more Jews from death in the Holocaust than any other Jew. His reward was the accusation that he sold his soul to the devil and assassination by Jewish extremists.

But Kasztner's reputation may be about to be restored, more than 60 years after he negotiated a "blood for money" deal with an armed, drunk and often ranting Adolf Eichmann to save Jewish lives in exchange for cash, jewels and trucks.

Two new books about Kasztner have been published and a documentary film is being prepared for distribution later this year. All paint him as a hidden hero of the Holocaust, a man who risked his life in countless bargaining sessions with the Nazis.

During World War Two, he negotiated a train to carry almost 1,700 Hungarian Jews to safety in Switzerland, while he stayed behind to continue negotiating.

Later in the war, he also accompanied an SS officer on visits to concentration camps to tell commandants to stop the killings, saving up to 100,000 Jews according to some experts.

At that point, it was clear that Germany was on the verge of losing the war and there would be trials afterward. SS Col. Kurt Becher took Kasztner along possibly because he wanted a Jewish witness to his good deed.

Anna Porter, whose book "Kasztner's Train" draws on seven years of research, scores of interviews and previously unknown papers, says that it is time to honor Kasztner and to dismiss the many accusations against him.   Continued...

 
<p>Rezso Kasztner is pictured with his daughter Zsuzsi in Tel Aviv in this 1957 photograph. Two new books about Kasztner have been published and a documentary film is being prepared for distribution later this year. All paint him as a hidden hero of the Holocaust, a man who risked his life in countless bargaining sessions with the Nazis. REUTERS/Bloomsbury Publishing/Handout S.</p>