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

Overview

“A tale of rescue as remarkable as Wallenberg or Schindler…An important piece of forgotten history.”-Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World

The heroic story of Rezsö Kasztner, the “Hungarian Oskar 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 I srael twelve years after World War II ended. Based on interviews with those who ...

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

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Overview

“A tale of rescue as remarkable as Wallenberg or Schindler…An important piece of forgotten history.”-Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World

The heroic story of Rezsö Kasztner, the “Hungarian Oskar 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 I srael twelve years after World War II ended. Based on interviews with those who were on the train 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
From the Publisher
“The saga author Anna Porter recounts is surely the stuff of novels. Consider this paradox: the man who saved more Jews than anyone in the Holocaust immigrates to Israel after the war and is convicted as a Nazi collaborator. How can this be? As Porter tells it, lawyer Rezso Kasztner, a leading member of the Hungarian Jewish Rescue Committee, "desperately negotiated" with the Nazis to buy the lives of 1,684 Jews, who would be packed onto "Kasztner's Train" and ridden to safety in Switzerland. Here's the hitch: most of the travelers had paid their patron $1,500 each for their tickets, thus establishing a threshold which might be called, "How much freedom can you afford?"

Kasztner appealed his conviction and was ultimately exonerated, but while awaiting appeal, he was assassinated in Tel Aviv on March 4, 1957. But not all Jews, by any means, felt Kasztner's actions were a simple Faustian bargain. Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem unveiled Kasztner's private archive on the 50th anniversary of his death, in a mission to restore his reputation.”—History Wire

“The remarkable achievement of Kasztner’s Train is to bring to life a tale of breathtaking chutzpah, the gravest personal risk, dark intrigue, human frailty, and devastating clashes of personality. Animated by her understanding of the Hungarian context, Anna Porter relays her story with, as was said of the Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, impeccable moral taste.” —Michael R. Marrus, professor emeritus of Holocaust Studies, University of Toronto “[Anna Porter] vividly brings to life those frenetic months in Budapest before the Nazi collapse. Although she shows Kasztner with all his weaknesses and flaws egotistical, vain, ambitious and unfaithful to his wife she concludes that he was indeed heroic in risking his own life daily and saving thousands of Jews. Yad Vashem, releasing the results of its study of Kasztner's voluminous documents, notes and correspondence, recently came to the same conclusion. There was no man in the history of the Holocaust who saved more Jews and was subjected to more injustice than Kasztner, said Yad Vashem chairman Joseph Lapid, himself a survivor from Hungary, in July 2007, releasing the conclusions of Yad Vashem's research on Kasztner's papers. This is an opportunity to do justice to a man who was misrepresented and was a victim of a vicious attack that led to his death, he added, calling Kasztner, one of the great heroes of the Holocaust.”—Adam Fuerstenberg, The Forward

“The unknown hero of the title is Rezso Kasztner, a member of the Jewish Rescue Committee in Hungary during World War II. He was able to negotiate a deal with the Nazis, which resulted in Kasztner’s Train—a train that transported 1,684 Hungarian Jews out of Nazi-controlled Hungary to safety in Switzerland in July 1944. The wealthy Jews of Budapest paid an average of $1,500 for each family member; the poor paid nothing. Kasztner also was able to save 20,000 Hungarian Jews by having them sent to an Austrian labor camp instead of extermination camps. Kasztner moved to Israel after the war, and in 1954 he was accused of being a Nazi collaborator. Kasztner claimed that his dealing with the Nazi officials, including Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, were necessary to save lives. In 1957, he was assassinated by right-wing activists in Tel Aviv. Porter interviewed 75 people and had access to diaries, notes, taped interviews, memoirs, and courtroom testimonies; her book, with three maps and a 16-page black-and-white insert, offers the most complete, fully documented account of this Holocaust story.”—Booklist

“Glowing chronicle of an unheralded, Schindler-esque figure who saved Hungarian-Jewish lives during World War II…A compelling narrative that does great justice to Kasztner’s memory.”Kirkus

“A tale of rescue as remarkable as Wallenberg or Schindler. Kudos to Anna Porter for recovering such an important piece of forgotten history, with, at its heart, a colorful and irresistible hero—and an ending that will break your heart.”—Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802717412
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 3/3/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Porter was born in Hungary and personally experienced the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. A celebrated former publisher in Canada, she is the author of five previous books, including The Storyteller. She lives in Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Jewish Question

1 Desperately Seeking Palestine 9

2 The Gathering Storm 30

3 A Question of Honor, Law, and Justice 46

4 The Politics of Genocide 62

5 Budapest: The Beginning of the End 74

Part 2 The Kingdom of the Night

6 The Occupation 83

7 Obersturmbannfuhrer Adolf Eichmann 93

8 In the Anteroom of Hell 106

9 Bargaining with the Devil 119

10 The Auschwitz Protocols 126

11 The Reichsfuhrer's Most Obedient Servant 130

12 Mission to Istanbul 142

13 A Million Jews for Sale 152

14 A Game of Roulette for Human Lives 166

15 Rolling the Dice 174

16 Blessings from Heaven 185

17 Strasshof: The Jews on Ice 190

18 The Memories of Peter Munk and Erwin Schaeffer 194

Part 3 The Highway of Death

19 The Journey 203

20 The End of the Great Plan 210

21 Still Trading in Lives 217

22 The Bridge at Saint Margarethen 232

23 The End of Summer 239

24 The Dying Days of Budapest 248

25 In the Shadow of the Third Reich's Final Days 261

26 Budapest in the Throes of Liberation 279

27 Nazi Gold 288

Part 4 Death with Honor

28 In Search of a Life 299

29 The Jews of the Exile 312

30 The Prince of Darkness Is a Gentleman 319

31 Letters to Friends in the Mizrachi 324

32 The Price of a Man's Soul 339

33 The Consequences 351

34 The Aftermath 356

35 The Banality of Evil 363

36 Other Lives 368

Acknowledgments 379

Notes 383

Bibliography 407

Index 417

Photographs 184

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