Yad Vashem received the papers of Rudolph Kastner (also spelled Kasztner), the Zionist official who, although he saved many Jews during the Holocaust, was vilified as a “Nazi collaborator.” The vilification led directly to Kastner’s murder in Israel in 1957.
Here’s what Yad Vashem’s chairman and its librarian have to say about Kastner, after examining Kastner’s papers:
“There was no man in the history of the Holocaust who saved more Jews, and was subjected to more injustice than Israel Kasztner,” said former cabinet minister Yosef Lapid, chairman of Yad Vashem’s board of directors and himself a Holocaust survivor from Hungary.
“This is an opportunity to do justice to a man who was misrepresented and was a victim on a vicious attack that led to his death,” he said, calling Kasztner one of the great heroes of the Holocaust.
Kasztner’s backers say his actions were similar to those of Oskar Schindler, a non-Jew whose efforts to save more than 1,000 Jews was documented in the Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List.…
Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem library, said that while Kasztner’s public legacy has remained in question, it has long been established among historians that he acted in good faith.
“This is a man who was engaged in rescue activities,” he said. “Rescue activities during the Holocaust meant being in touch with people who would not particularly like to invite over to your house to have a cup of coffee.”
Kasztner himself didn’t board his famous train to freedom, instead staying behind and negotiating the further release of Jews, risking his own life.
Rozett said the findings in the archives support the idea that he was dealing in rescue and not behind-the-scenes deals to sell off Hungarian Jews.
Kastner was widely vilified in large-selling book, Perfidy, by playwright Ben Hecht, a leading American Revisionist Zionist. Another book, Min HaMetzar (Out of the Depths) was published in the early 1980s by Avraham Fuchs (with whose son I used to frequently eat lunch and from whom I purchased several copies of the book). It was later translated and republished by ArtScroll as “The Unheeded Cry.” The Fuchs book tells the story of Rabbi Wiessmandal, whose rescue organization saved many Jews in Slovakia, Hungary and Romania and who had a very low opinion of Kastner. (BTW, Rabbi Wiessmandal’s son is the rabbi in charge of kashrut at all the Rubashkin meat plants.)
Both books are very popular in haredi circles, perhaps because haredi ignorance of history is so profound that the inconsistencies in them are rarely noticed. Yet these books serve as a partial ‘justification’ for haredi anti-Zionism.
On a personal note, years ago I gave former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz a copy of the Fuchs book because Boschwitz had been so instrumental in saving Ethiopian Jews. Knowing now that Kastner seems to be totally vindicated makes me regret that gift.