Rudolf Kastner

Israel Rudolf Kastner 1 (1906-15 March 1957) was a journalist and lawyer Hungarian – Jew who became known for helping Jews escape from occupied Hungary by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust . He was assassinated in 1957 after an Israeli court accused him of collaborating with the Nazis.

Along with Joel Brand , Kastner was one of the leaders of Va’adat Ezrah Vehatzalah -the Assistance Committee and Rescue or Vaada – a small Jewish group in Budapest that helped Jewish refugees escape from occupied Europe by Nazi Germany to The relative safety of Hungary during World War II . After the Nazis invaded Hungary that the 19 of March of 1944 , the Committee helped Jews escape from Hungary. Between May and July 1944, Hungarian Jews were deported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz at a rate of 12,000 people per day, according to the Nazis, to be “resettled”. Kastner negotiated with Adolf Eichmann , an officer of high rank of the SS , to allow 1,685 of them leave for Switzerland in what became known as the ” train Kastner ” in exchange for money, gold and diamonds. Israeli historian Yechiam Weitz wrote that in doing so, “with his own hands, Kasztner saved more Jews than any other Jew before him.” 2

Kastner moved to Israel after the war and became a spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1952. 3 In 1953 he was accused by Malchiel Gruenwald of having been a collaborator of the Nazis. The accusation was based on Kastner’s relationship with Eichmann and on Kastner’s defense after the war of three SS officers, including Kurt Becher (which allowed Kastner to avoid prosecution for war crimes). The Israeli government sued Gruenwald for defamation on behalf of Kastner, resulting in a trial that lasted two years. In the words of the judge, in 1955, Kastner had “sold his soul to the devil.” 4 By saving Jews in “Kastner’s train,” while failing to warn others that their resettlement was in fact a deportation to the gas chambers, Kastner had sacrificed the mass of Jews by a select few, The judge said. 4 The verdict led to the fall of the Israeli cabinet. 5

Kastner resigned from his government position and became a virtual recluse. 4 His wife suffered a depression and her daughter had to endure having her schoolmates throw stones at her in the street. 6 The Israeli Supreme Court overturned most of the trial in January 1958 by holding (in a 4 to 1 decision) that the upper court had “seriously erred,” but not before Kastner was killed. 5 Was shot on 3 of March of 1957 by Zeev Eckstein and died of his injuries twelve days later. 7


  1. Back to top↑ Also known as Rezső Kasztner or as Israel or Yisrael Kastner / Kasztner.
  2. Back to top↑ Weitz 1995; Ilani 2008.
  3. Back to top↑ Bilsky 2001.
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b c “On Trial” , Time Magazine , July 11, 1955.
  5. ↑ Jump to:a b “Exoneration of Dr. Kastner , Time Magazine , January 27, 1958.
  6. Back to top↑ Porter 2007, p. 405.
  7. Back to top↑ Zweig 2002, p. 232.