Rezső Kasztner: The Man Who Betrayed 400,000 Jews


By Paul Bogdanor

A major injustice is being committed in our time, as a traitor to the Jewish people is being turned into a hero, and the anguished cries of Holocaust survivors are being silenced.

From May 1944 to July 1944, more than 400,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to Auschwitz. The enthusiastic perpetrators of this crime — the fastest destruction of any Jewish population during the Final Solution — were Adolf Eichmann’s SS unit and the Hungarian government.

Throughout the preparations for, and the implementation of, the deportations, the Nazis conducted “rescue negotiations” with a small Jewish committee led by Rezső Kasztner (also known as Rudolf Kastner). The Nazi aim in these “negotiations” was to buy time for the mass murder operation by holding out the prospect of a rescue deal. As Himmler told one of his officers: “Take what you can get from the Jews. Promise them what you like. What we keep is another matter.”

That the Nazis tried to trick Jewish leaders is no surprise. What is shocking is that Kasztner, who was supposed to be in charge of the Jewish rescue effort in Hungary, was induced to play along.

The bait was the promise to free a trainload of 1,684 specially selected “prominents,” who were first moved to a Nazi-guarded camp in Budapest, then held hostage in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and finally released to Switzerland.

In return for this “concession” — supposedly the first stage of a grand bargain to spare one million Jews in exchange for goods from the West — Kasztner was expected to collaborate in sending the Jews of Hungary to their deaths.

Kasztner knew that the trains from the Hungarian ghettos were taking their victims not to a resettlement site — as the Jews had been told — but to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Yet he ordered his committee to send messages to the ghettos telling local Jewish leaders to prepare their communities for agricultural work in the countryside. By doing so, Kasztner guaranteed that there would be no significant escape attempts, even though some of these Jewish communities were near the country’s borders, and the Romanian authorities — at this stage of the war — openly tolerated the arrival of Jewish refugees.

What Kasztner did is not speculation.

In his postwar report on his activities, Kasztner admitted to knowing in advance that Auschwitz was the destination of the Jewish men, women and children boarding the death trains. He also disclosed the specific instructions that he had received from the SS. Eichmann, he wrote, “wanted no fuss” as the ghettos were emptied. Therefore, “the ‘rescue secret’ had to be kept.”

Kasztner’s activities during the Holocaust were the subject of a sensational libel trial in Israel in the 1950s. The outcome of that trial — in which the judge ruled that Kasztner had “sold his soul to the devil” — caused the collapse of Prime Minister Moshe Sharett’s government. The verdict was overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court, but not before Kasztner’s assassination at the hands of right-wing extremists.

For the past decade, a campaign has been afoot to exonerate Kasztner. Books have been written applauding him as an “unknown hero” of the Holocaust. There have been repeated efforts to name an Israeli street after him. A hagiographic documentary, “Killing Kasztner,” has been shown to countless audiences in North America and beyond. Soon a play celebrating Kasztner will be staged by Israel’s National Theater.

This campaign has been fueled by awareness that the last Hungarian survivors of Auschwitz are dying off, and can no longer speak out against what is happening. Some of those who remain alive have been put under considerable distress by the insensitivity of Kasztner’s apologists. At past meetings on the subject, Hungarian Holocaust survivors have been shouted down.

All this comes as conclusive evidence of Kasztner’s guilt has emerged.

My new book, Kasztner’s Crime, quotes from the letters he sent to his foreign Jewish contacts during the Holocaust. In one of these letters, he referred to Auschwitz-Birkenau not as a death camp, but as an “industrial center.” In another, he asserted that the Jews sent there were alive and well in “Waldsee” — a fictitious location used as a decoy by the Nazis.

Kasztner also openly promoted the Nazi propaganda line. “If there was anything humane at all to be said about the handling of the deportation,” he wrote at the height of the mass murders, “it was paradoxically always to be attributed to the SS.”

It is time to call a halt to the whitewashing of Kasztner’s legacy. Respect for the memory of the Jewish victims demands no less.

(c) 2017 The Algemeiner Journal




    • According to you, let’s have compassion on Bnei Bonov Shel Haman sheLomdu Torah biVnei Brak – stop making Haman noises during Krias haMegila, or perhaps quit laining all together.

  1. A couple of years ago,new information came out that the assasins were actually
    at the behest of Ben Gurion’s Gov’t & were in the pay of the GSS (as was long suspected by some)

    So “Kasztner’s assassination at the hands of right-wing extremists” is false

    • Yes, the excellent book “Perfidy” explains that after the libel trial had begun to show that Kastner really was an extremely horrifically terrible person, there was strong pressure to put Kastner himself on trial for his treachery. Realizing that such a trial would obviously expose even more of Kastner’s Nazi collaborations and thus even begin to reveal the severe evil that was at the core of the secular Zionist establishment, the secular Zionist establishment realized that they had to have Kastner quickly bumped off.

  2. There’s a fundamental problem here. I read perfidy, which I find very surprising you don’t mention by name in this article even though it is the authoritative book on the Kastner betrayal, my grandmother nonetheless was on that transport, along with the Satmer Rebbe. So as a grandson how can I hold disdain and hatred for a man who despite being evil and power-hungry saved my family?

    • The Satmer Rebbe was once asked almost the same
      He answered : Klal yisroel comes before the individual
      Though On a personal level has he has Hakaras hatov

    • So if a Haman did your great grandpa a favor, you wouldn’t be able to feel disdain for Amoleik(or this particular judenrat shutof of amoleik)?! You do have a fundamental problem here – you do not see yourself on Am Yisroel team, you and your social circle are your team.

  3. the ones who were saved by him call him a tzadik
    and i dont blame them as i would most probably do the same had i been saved by him
    however the unequivocal facts are
    that he was a collaborator who witheld the information of genocide from the masses
    one has to understand that in 1944 there was no internet etc and the average hungarian living in the small towns were uneducated and got their news from hearsay etc
    my father ah told me that when they arrived in aushwitz and saw buildings they were happy as they said its a labor camp and we will work
    thats how naieve the average hungarian jew was
    and had they known they would do what they could to hide etc
    kastner was a accesory to murder of over 600,000 jews

    • The Jews saved by Kasztner will be ever thankful to him, without realizing that Kasztner sacrificed thousands of Jewish lives for the survival of each and every “prominent” Jews of his picking.

    • Hey, Johnny come lately,
      How about reading page after page of Gov’t declassiffieds ??
      How dare we fix the old texts??
      (Most old marxists who feel the same like you)
      Who has been doing the writing and ‘rewriting’ till now ??
      They did a superb job,obviously . Proof:Yourself

  4. Another aspect: When Rav Weismandl, ztl, asked the Joint for tens of thousands of dollars to save tens of thousands of Yidden in Czechoslovakia, they said they couldn’t justify spending the money on things other than settling Eretz Yisroel. Then when Kastner needed a million or more to save less than two thousand people (mostly friends and family and Zionist activists) they gave it to him willingly. The Satmar Rav was put on the train only because Kastner’s father-in-law had several very vivid dreams from his mother (a distinguished Rebbetzin, grandmother of Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer) who told him that the train would get out only if the Satmar Rav were on it and he persuaded Kastner to listen to him. The Satmar Rav for the rest of his life lit candles and learned Mishnayos on that Rebbetzin’s yahrzeit.

    • While the Joint’s swiss representative Saly Mayer was horrible, “they couldn’t justify spending the money on things other than settling Eretz Yisroel” came from the JA

  5. Kasztner was willingly and happily collaborating with the butchers of the Hungarian Jewry. He enjoyed riding around in an SS sedan with an SS chauffeur while Jews were starving under curfew locked up in the ghettos. Him and the collaborating so called Jewish Council gave guaranties to Eichmann that there will be no resistance and no escape attempts by Jews. Kasztner and his accomplices convinced the Jews that they have to follow the nazi’s instructions to the letter, and then there will be no harm to them… and those were Jewish “community leaders” including rabbis as well, who left with Kasztner’s trains.
    I watched the Kasztner documentary, and I am convinced that Kasztner’s assassination was not an act of some extremists, but the government of Israel could not tolerate this collaborator any longer.
    It was known that Kasztner carried a gun. The first round in the “assassin’s” gun was a blank. (?) Kasztner was not armed at the time, so the fall guy survived and sentenced. Most likely that the fatal shot fired at Kasztner was not by him. Witnesses claimed there were a number of gun shots heard. I strongly believe that it was a covered operation by Mossad or any other of the Israeli agencies engaged in clandestine operations.
    My only remark is that it should have happened much earlier.


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