Recanters

Despite the complete and total exoneration of Kastner by Supreme Court Judge Agranat, hearing the appeal on January 1958, nine months after Kastner’s assassination on March 1957 and two and one-half years after Judge Halevi’s pronouncement that Kastner made a ‘….pact with the devil’ in June 1955, it took the army of detractors, the writers, the columnists, the press and many historians decades to recant their statements and shed their theories of Kastner’s culpability.

Word has is it, that both Tamir and Halevi recanted shortly before their death. So did a very noisy Uri Avneri, editor of the Haolam-Haze weekly at the time.  Kastner’s granddaughter, the Israeli television personality Meirav Michaeli  was lobbying in vain for years for a venue to be named after Kastner. It has not happened yet.

The late Ephraim Kishon, an internationally acclaimed Israeli writer and humorist of Hungarian origin, talking to an interviewer, told about an uncle “….even uncle Edward himself did not hurry to emigrate to Palestine and only by chance was he saved from extermination. He was on the train to Bergen-Belsen, the one organized by Kastner, the one who sold his soul to the Devil.  Yes, so the idiot among the world’s judges called him.”

 Misnomers such as calling the train, The Kastner Train, or the trial, The Kastner Trial when neither was true. The train was obtained by Kastner from Eichmann, but the organization of it, the space allocations, the division of party entitlements, the payments both in Budapest and in Kolozsvár were not Kastner’s doing. In the trial, the accused was Malkiel Gruenwald, Kastner was the Plaintiff.  Thus it clearly was the Gruenwald trial. Tagging Kastner’s name to it sheds aspersions on the man who accomplished unbelievable feats.

There was never such an oppressive silence of the normally outspoken Israeli press and the thousands who lived in Israel and around the world, whose lives he saved and who were not heard from during the trial when it counted. It remains a puzzle. Kastner was right on target when he addressed the leadership and said that they would go all out to celebrate dead heroes, something that is politically safe. However live heroes are unpredictable, one does not know what kind of political beans they may spill; they are uncomfortable and fickle and erratic. In Russia they kill them. In a democratic society they assassinate their character. One, is an instant death, the other is a slow death.

In 2007 Yad-Vashem in Jerusalem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum has embarked on a rehabilitation process of Kastner. The late Josef Lapid, a noted journalist, former Knesset member and Government Minister, chairman of Yad-Vashem’s Board of Directors and a Hungarian survivor, declared:   “There was no man in the history of the Holocaust who saved more Jews and was subjected to more injustice, than Israel Kastner.” Kastner’s daughter Suzanne, at the unveiling of her father’s archives at Yad-Vashem, added “…the State of Israel has finally retrieved its lost honor…”  

The Kastner detractors have not yet discarded their theories and will keep to their distorted views that Kastner was a collaborator with his Nazi cohorts against his own people. It will surely keep the controversy alive for some time to come.

 

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