also Rudolf, or Israel (1906-1957)
Rudolf Kastner was born in Kolozsvár-Cluj or Klausenburg as it was known
then. Trained as a lawyer and active in Zionist youth movements, he became
a member of the Mapai party. Early on he befriended and lobbied the local
Romanian politicians on behalf of Jewish interests. He became the editor
of the Zionist paper Uj Kelet-The New East.
member of the Rescue Committee in Budapest after the German entry into
Hungary, he became the chief strategist and negotiator with Eichmann in
trying to avert the mass deportations and save as many lives as possible.
He welcomed the absurd offer related by Himmler of ‘Blood for Goods,’
goods and equipment needed by the Germans in exchange for one million
Jews. He immediately realized that he was handed a negotiating leverage by
the German as it was the first time that they needed something from the
Jews that they could not confiscate.
Together with Kurt Becher, an SS Colonel close to Himmler he constantly
circumvented Eichmann’s pursuit of fanatically implementing the Nazi
extermination programs and saved over four hundred thousand people, mostly
Jews. After the war he settled in Israel and became a high ranking
government official in Ben-Gurion’s government. A controversy about his
activities developed and he was forced to defend libelous accusations
against him. The trial and the aftermath turned into a political tug of
war between the ruling party and the opposition, leaving Kastner merely a
pawn in this struggle.
Following inflammatory statements by the presiding judge and the whipping
up of rumors, innuendos and distortions of events, eventually led to
Kastner’s assassination on a Tel Aviv street in 1957. He succumbed to his
wounds and died aged fifty-one.
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