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New books, film find hero of Holocaust

History has not been kind to Rezso Kasztner. But Kasztner's reputation may be about to be restored, more than 60 years after he negotiated a "blood for money" deal with an armed, drunk and often ranting Adolph Eichmann to save Jewish lives in exchange for cash, jewels and trucks.

world Updated: May 23, 2008 10:48 IST

History has not been kind to Rezso Kasztner.

He saved more Jews from death in the Holocaust than any other Jew. His reward was the accusation that he sold his soul to the devil and assassination by Jewish extremists.

But Kasztner's reputation may be about to be restored, more than 60 years after he negotiated a "blood for money" deal with an armed, drunk and often ranting Adolph Eichmann to save Jewish lives in exchange for cash, jewels and trucks.

Two new books about Kasztner have been published and a documentary film is being prepared for distribution later this year. All paint him as a hidden hero of the Holocaust, a man who risked his life in countless bargaining sessions with the Nazis.

During World War Two, he negotiated a train to carry almost almost 1,700 Hungarian Jews to safety in Switzerland, while he stayed behind to continue negotiating.

Later in the war, he also accompanied an SS officer on visits to concentration camps to tell commandants to stop the killings, saving up to 100,000 Jews according to some experts.

At that point, it was clear that Germany was on the verge of losing the war and there would be trials afterward. SS Col. Kurt Becher took Kasztner along possibly because he wanted a Jewish witness to his good deed.

Anna Porter, whose book "Kasztner's Train" draws on seven years of research, scores of interviews and previously unknown papers, says that it is time to honor Kasztner and to dismiss the many accusations against him.

The second book, German literature professor Ladislaus Lob's "Dealing with Satan: Rezso Kasztner's Daring Rescue Mission," is part reexamination of Kasztner and part memoir.

Lob was 11 years old when he escaped with his father on Kasztner's train to Switzerland from the Bergen-Belsen camp.

A nobody

At the time, Kasztner was an obscure official of a minor Zionist committee but who had links with Jewish rescue groups in the United States, Turkey and Switzerland.