web analytics
July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



The Train

Rudolf Kastner

Rudolf Kastner

When the train reached Linz in Austria, west of Vienna, the Jews were ordered off the train. Panic spread when they were told they would be sent to showers for disinfection. By that time they had heard about the “showers” in the death camps and feared they were about to be murdered. But showers they indeed turned out to be.

* * * * *

When the train reached the border with Germany, rumors again spread that the train was going to be detoured to Auschwitz. But it continued in the direction of Hannover, stopping at a station near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Originally built as a “stalag” camp for prisoners of war, this was to be home for most of the inhabitants of the Kastner rescue train for the next six months. It is still not clear why they were interned there; it may have been because of internal disagreements within the German regime about what to do with them. The original plan of sending the train to Barcelona was no longer an option, as the Allies were bombing rail tracks throughout German and France.

At Bergen-Belsen there were no horrific insects to afflict the Kastner passengers as there had been in the Budapest camps. For the first few weeks they refused to eat the awful camp food, living off provisions they had brought with them from Budapest among their belongings. Instead, they passed their rations to Dutch and Polish POWs in neighboring sections of the camp. Once their own food from home was gone, they had no choice but to live off the camp rations, and hunger was rampant.

The passengers split themselves into different camp “communities” and “movements.” There were “congregations” of every religious stripe, from the Satmars to the Neologs, Hungary’s analogue to the Reform and Conservative movements of the West. Even the communist atheists had a “congregation” that held its own Yom Kippur service. The Satmar Rebbe ended every Sabbath prayer service by singing “Ani Maamin,” a song about the anticipated arrival of the Messiah, with tears running down his face.

The Zionist movements were also represented in the camp. Kohn joined the Marxist Hashomer Hatzair for three days, thanks to an attractive girl who was leading it, but left in anger when she threw his cap onto a sand mound. While retrieving the cap he spotted a group of young people in the yard studying Talmud.

He introduced himself and joined their group, spending much of the remaining time in the camp with them, studying, playing chess, getting into mischief. One member of the group was Yehuda Blum, later to serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

They gave each other “classes” in different subjects. The boy who taught the others physics, Joachim Joseph, would become one of Israel’s leading atomic scientists. (Joseph kept a Torah scroll from the camp when he was released and later gave it to Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon to carry with him into space; billions of people saw it in the broadcast from the rocket.)

Strangely, Kohn felt safe here. His worst fear was to be alone, but here he lived with his uncle, mother, and grandmother. Allied bombers could often be seen overhead.

One evening, they were ordered to gather their belongings and report to the assembly yard. Again panic spread, as they feared they were to be sent off for extermination. They were loaded onto a train and told it was going to Switzerland. The train reached the Swiss frontier the next day and simply stopped. Earlier trains carrying refugees had been turned back after being refused admission by Switzerland. But, perhaps due to Western pressure, this train was eventually allowed through.

In Switzerland, warm clothing and food and blankets awaited the passengers, even some Swiss chocolate. They were shuffled about from camp to hostel inside Switzerland. Eventually they were sent to Italy by train and allowed to board a ship to Palestine. Kohn’s happiest moment was when the ship pulled into the port of Haifa. They could see Hebrew on the signs, flags with a Jewish star, and the port workers tossed Israeli oranges onto the ship.

It was in Israel that year that he celebrated his bar mitzvah. It was also where the family received word of the fate of his father. On a death march from Linz to Vienna, the exhausted man could walk no farther and dared to sit down. An SS guard shot him to death.

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.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

Please use the Facebook Tab below to leave your comment:

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
An IDF soldier surveys a Palestinian terror tunnel.
IDF: Not Sure We can Get to All Tunnels
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredi soldiers of the Neztah Yehuda Battalion fight for Israel while maintaining Torah study in the army,

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

The Israel Test

Charges from the court of world public opinion and their refutations.


It is up to our government to ensure that their sacrifices were not made for short-term gains.

.

Supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has become dangerous in Malmo.

Proportionality Doctrine:The greater the military gain the greater the justifiable collateral damage

Regional pro-US Arab countries rely on Israel as a deterrence to rogue Islamic regimes.

He has always supported the underdog, once even quite literally, legislating a law that prohibits the abandonment of pets.

Temech is about providing a community – a place where religious women can learn, collaborate and refresh themselves with like-minded people.

Netanyahu has decided that the lives of Israeli are more important than looking good for Obama, U.N. and the NY Times.

Many Jews join the Israel-haters with their progressive ideology and politically correct obsessions.

“The will to triumph is a prerequisite for victory.” Abba Kovner

How can you run away from Israel and all the things that have shaped your life?

It’s as if Hamas has pulled a page out of Pharaoh’s handbook.

“Am HaNetzach Eino Mefached Mi Derech Aruka” (An eternal people doesn’t fear the long journey).

Isn’t it comforting to know that our God loves life, grants life, and promises eternal life?

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

    Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System:





    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: