web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The Train

Rudolf Kastner

Rudolf Kastner

Share Button

But one of those schemes did succeed. Eichmann agreed to allow a rescue train to leave Hungary with 1,685 Jews aboard, bound originally for Barcelona in Spain. The ransom price was estimated at 8.6 million Swiss francs.

After the war, Kastner became one of the most controversial figures in modern Jewish history. Regarded as a hero and savior by many, including Prof. Yechiam Weitz from my own University of Haifa, he was condemned by others as a collaborator and traitor.

The enmity of his detractors was fanned when Kastner agreed to keep a promise and testify in defense of an SS officer who had murdered Jews but who was reported to have saved other Jews from death in the closing weeks of the war.

Kastner was also accused of hiding the true dangers of extermination from Transylvanian and Hungarian Jews, making them complacent, and of playing favoritism in the rescue train saga. In the Kastner libel trial in Tel Aviv in the 1950s, the court’s judge, Shimon Agranat, later a chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, denounced Kastner and his behavior during the war, accusing him of having “sold his soul to Satan.”

In 1957 Kastner was assassinated in Tel Aviv by three men who had been active members of the underground LEHI (the Stern Gang) before independence.

* * * * *

Dr. David Kohn is alive thanks to the Kastner train.

It sounds bizarre today, but most of the surviving Jews in Budapest were reluctant to sign up for the Kastner rescue train. Until 1944 Hungary was an independent, if oppressive, state allied with Hitler. It was headed by Miklos Horthy, head of the Iron Cross fascist party.

There were atrocities and some deportations carried out against Hungary’s Jews, but massive deportations and extermination did not commence until 1944. The end of the war was clearly approaching. The Allies were heading toward Normandy. The Soviet Red Army was not too far off east, and everyone could see Germany would lose the war.

The Hungarian dictator Horthy cautiously entered into negotiations with the Soviet Union and the West concerning Hungary’s abandoning the Axis and switching sides. Hitler quickly learned of these overtures and ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy Hungary and assume direct control, retaining Horthy as a figurehead. Eichmann was dispatched to solve Hungary’s “Jewish problem.” Horthy was shipped off within a few weeks to internment in Bavaria.

Eichmann began the mass deportations to Auschwitz. At first they were mainly of provincial Jews from outside Budapest. Within Budapest, life was difficult for Jews but they retained a sense of safety and anticipation of the arrival of the Red Army as liberators. Kohn’s father was taken off to a “work camp” as a “volunteer,” the price paid for the rest of the family being allowed to remain in Budapest.

By this time Kohn was being held with his mother, uncle, and grandmother in an internment camp inside Budapest on Pavo Avenue, where Hungary’s Holocaust Memorial Museum today stands. Among the camp’s inhabitants were 300 Transylvanian Jews, whose escape to Hungary had been earlier orchestrated by Kastner. These included some Kastner relatives, a point of later contention, but also ordinary Jews of all different ranks and stations in life – including, perhaps most famously, the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum.

When word came through that a rescue train was being organized, anyone in the camp could sign up for it but most preferred to remain in the “safety” of Budapest. They were skeptical and suspicious about where the Germans would actually send the train and what the fate of its riders would be.

One did not need any special “pull” or clout to get on the train. And since there were two trainloads being planned, those willing to chance the trip preferred the second one, after news would arrive regarding the fate of those on the first train out. So the first train was undersubscribed and persuasion was needed to get people to sign up. Apprehensions and fears notwithstanding, Kohn and his relatives signed up for that first train out.

The cattle car leaving Budapest was crowded and hot. The air was stifling and there was no toilet on the train. No one knew exactly where the train was headed. It made stops along the way. One was in Auschpitz, whose name was similar enough to another train stop to trigger dread among the passengers.

Share Button

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

2 Responses to “The Train”

  1. Henry Boreen says:

    Thanks for the info; I was a pre-teen in USA.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
FBI Wanted poster for Osama bin Laden
Pakistan Library Renamed to Honor bin Laden
Latest Indepth Stories
matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

Masked Palestinian Authority Arabs hurl blocks at Israel Police during and after "worship" at Temple Mount mosque. (archive photo)

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

More Articles from Steven Plaut
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

Ehud Olmert
Feb. 27, 2014

It’s six K, five K, four K, Graft !
(Daylight come and da jail’s his new home)

In 2012, an initiative was begun in the Knesset led by David Rotem (from the Yisrael Beitenu party), to cut the stipends and pensions paid to convicted murderers and terrorists by 50 percent.

When the Temple was in existence, Jews were religiously obligated to eat roast meat at least once a year.

I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.

In the past, the law school prohibited the singing of Hatikvah.

American non-Orthodox Jews are intermarrying their way into post-Jewish oblivion, and they’re doing so as a direct result of having emptied their version of Judaism of all meaning.

The Taliban is all too willing to obliterate anything attesting to ancient Jewish life and culture.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-train/2012/07/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: