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
Kasztner's Train: The True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaustby Anna Porter
The heroic story of the "Hungarian Oskar Schindler," who saved thousands of Jews from certain death only to be accused of collaboration and assassinated in Israel twelve years after World War II ended.
“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
“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
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.
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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, a memoir of her family through seven centuries of Hungarian history. She lives in Toronto.
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