Kasztner's Train: The True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaust

Kasztner's Train: The True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaust

by Anna Porter
     
 

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The heroic story of the "Hungarian Oscar Schindler" who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, only to be accused of collaboration and assassinated in Israel twelve years after WWII ended.

Oscar Schindler's and Raoul Wallenberg's efforts to save people from Nazi extinction are legendary; Rezso

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Overview

The heroic story of the "Hungarian Oscar Schindler" who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, only to be accused of collaboration and assassinated in Israel twelve years after WWII ended.

Oscar Schindler's and Raoul Wallenberg's efforts to save people from Nazi extinction are legendary; Rezso Kasztner, by contrast, is practically unknown, even though he may have been the greatest rescuer of Jews during World War II. He was also the most controversial, and that, along with the relative lack of focus on events in Hungary toward the end of the war, has no doubt led to his anonymity. Now, with the publication of Anna Porter's remarkable chronicle, Kasztner's achievements are in full view.

When the German army invaded its ally Hungary in March 1944, followed soon after by Adolf Eichmann and his SS, Rezso Kasztner and a small group of Zionist activists stood in the way of mass deportations. They had met the well-informed Schindler, providing him with funds for food and clothing, and had been involved in previous efforts to rescue Jews from Slovakia and Poland. Now, in meeting after meeting with Eichmann and other SS officers, Kasztner negotiated for freedom, exploiting the Nazi weaknesses of greed and need--"blood for goods," as the Nazis called it--organizing a train out of Hungary for almost 2,000 while several thousand more were protected in work camps in Austria. Inevitably he saved some and not others. After testifying at the Nuremberg trials, Kasztner emigrated to Israel where, in 1956, he was stunningly convicted of collaborating with the Nazis more than a decade before. As he awaited the appeal that would ultimately exonerate him, he was assassinated by right-wing activists in Tel Aviv on March 4, 1957.

Based on interviews with those who were on the train and with family members of those denied a place on it, as well as documents and correspondence not previously published, Anna Porter tells the dramatic full story of one of the heroes of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Porter (The Storyteller) seeks to rehabilitate the reputation of Rezso Kasztner. This Hungarian Jew was branded a Nazi collaborator by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ben Hecht in his 1961 book, Perfidy.But more recently Kasztner has been exonerated by Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. After 400,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in 1944, Kasztner, a point man in a "goods-for-blood" deal with Nazi henchman Adolf Eichmann, arranged for a train to carry 1,684 Jews from Hungary to Switzerland, wealthy Jews paying $1,500 per person while the poor paid nothing. For $100 a head, Eichmann kept an additional 20,000 Jews alive in Austrian labor camps. After the war Kasztner relocated to Israel, where in 1952 he was accused of being a Nazi collaborator who saved a privileged few at the expense of thousands of others. Kasztner sued for malicious libel and lost on most counts; the trial made international headlines; and Kasztner was assassinated in 1957 by right-wing extremists. Although a well-researched counterbalance to Hecht's account, Porter's defense may swing too much in favor of Kasztner, given that most of the participants are deceased and much of the evidence is anecdotal. Readers, however, will welcome the opportunity to debate the ever-relevant moral issues of doing business with the enemy. Illus. 16 pages of b&w illus., 3 maps. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Glowing chronicle of an unheralded, Schindler-esque figure who saved Hungarian-Jewish lives during World War II. As the German army marched on Budapest in 1944, the fate of the city's Jewish population lay in the hands of bold, immeasurably brave Rezso Kasztner. Hungarian-born Canadian citizen Porter (The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies, 2000, etc.) gives an unashamedly laudatory account of Kasztner's actions, though she also extensively covers the controversy that dogged him until his final days. The book's central subject is the monumental task Kasztner assumed during the war as he battled with the German authorities to free as many Hungarian-born Jewish citizens as possible. His dealings with SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann are retold in meticulous detail. Porter effectively conjures dark, smoky offices hosting intense negotiations and the palpable, yet always carefully hidden terror felt by Kasztner as he battled with one of Hitler's most overbearing, deeply unpleasant henchmen. The author frequently departs from Kasztner's tale to recite events happening elsewhere in Europe, offering disquieting details of the conditions in Auschwitz that would be the probable fate of the Jewish citizens he failed to save. Kasztner's achievements were twofold. He got 1,684 Jews onto a train out of Hungary, at a considerable price to the wealthy passengers on board, although Porter points out that the exact amount of money given to the Germans is unknown. Kasztner also kept 20,000 exiled Hungarian Jews alive in Austria, again by forking over a considerable sum. With a hint of exasperation, Porter concludes by examining Kasztner's tribulations in Israel after the war, when he was charged withcolluding with the Nazis and failing to warn the majority of Budapest's Jewish population of what awaited them in the camps. Kasztner's assassination shortly after the trial was, for the author, a deeply inglorious end for a man she regards as a hero. A compelling narrative that does great justice to Kasztner's memory. Agent: John Pearce/Westwood Creative Artists

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802715968
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
03/18/2008
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.73(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.57(d)

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