Arlosoroff, Chayim (1899-1933)

Born in the Ukraine, Arlosoroff and his family moved to Germany in 1905. He attended University in Berlin, studying economics. Engaged in a passionate affair with his sister�s best friend, Magda Friedl�nder, daughter of a Jewish stepfather.  Became an ardent, committed Zionist and activist. Broke up with Magda when he found out that she was seeing a top Berlin Nazi.  She was also courted by a visiting Herbert Hoover Jr., the president�s nephew. Arlosoroff tried to shoot her in a lover�s quarrel.

At the outbreak of World War I he tried to enlist in the German army but was turned down as a foreigner. After the war immigrated to Palestine, he joined the leadership of the early Yishuv, the Jewish settlement in Palestine. Magda Friedl�nder proceeded to marry Josef G�bbels, a top, inner circle Nazi leader, and Hitler�s propagandist.

As a member of the top MAPAI and Histadrut leadership in Palestine, Arlosoroff returned to Germany on behalf of the Jewish Agency for the purpose of initiating the Ha�avara program - The Transfer, a plan of transferring Jewish capital from Germany to Palestine on the condition that development machinery and equipment would be purchased from German manufacturers. The SS enthusiastically embraced the program of Jewish emigration to Palestine as a solution to their agenda of �cleansing� Germany of its Jews. Close to ten percent of Germany�s pre-war Jewish population, over sixty thousand people emigrated from Germany on the Ha�avara program, starting in 1933. It made strange bedfellows of the Socialist - Zionist wing and the Nazis, both interested in settling Jews in Palestine. The Ha�avara contributed greatly to the inflow of capital to the struggling Yishuv, during a period of worldwide economic depression, helping Arlosoroff become a major and prominent leader of the Zionist Labor movement in Palestine.

Incredulously, at the start of the war, before the depth of the German deeds against the Jews became known, the extreme right-fringe underground resistance group in Palestine, an IRGUN offshoot, known as the LEHI  or the Stern Gang, under Yitzhak Shamir, later prime minister of Israel, contacted the Germans in Beirut and Damascus at the beginning of the war to offer a mass resettlement of European Jews in Palestine instead of annihilation and, at another time, to open a front against the British enemy in Palestine.

In 1933, after his return from Berlin, during a June summer�s evening stroll with his wife on the Tel Aviv sea shore, Arlosoroff was assassinated at age thirty-four. 

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Arrow Cross Party - Nyilaskeresztes P�rt

Founded by Ferenc Sz�lasi in 1935 and closely patterned after the German Nazi party, promoting radical racism, anti-communism, anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism. Outlawed and reinstated numerous times until the party gained power in October 1944 until it was abolished with the Russian conquest of Budapest in January 1945.

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Avriel, Ehud (1917-1980)

Born Űberall in Austria. Active Zionist MAPAI leader. Arrived in Palestine in 1939. Close aide to Ben-Gurion. Leader in Aliya-Beth, the illegal immigration to Palestine by sea, circumventing the British Colonial Office White Paper restrictions issued in 1939. Leader of the HeChalutz movement in Vienna prior to his immigration to Palestine. High Jewish Agency functionary. Liaison with Joel Brand in Istanbul, accompanying him to Aleppo. Served on crucial diplomatic missions as well as missions on behalf of Rekhesh � the Mosad�s pre-Israel clandestine arms acquisition branch. Director General of the Prime Minister�s office, advisor to the foreign Office. Diplomatic strategist. Member of the Knesset, Party activist. Instrumental in Israel�s cooperation with Africa. Ambassador to Ghana and later to Zaire Died in Israel in 1980 aged sixty-three.                                   

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Baky, L�szl� (1898-1946)

Hungarian Undersecretary of State � Ministry of the Interior

A former Gendarmerie Major-General and early member of the Hungarian Nazi party and its coalition in Parliament, he was Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior in Horthy�s government. With Endre and Gendarmerie Lt. Colonel Ferenczy Baky expedited the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to extermination camps. Removed for a short time, he resumed his position and became head of police forces under Sz�lasi. He escaped the country to Austria and taken to Hungary where he was tried and hanged in 1946.

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Barlas, Chayim

Head of the Jewish Agency office in Istanbul

In 1944, during Brand�s arrival in Istanbul, Polish-born Barlas was the head of the Jewish Agency�s office in Istanbul. Located on the edge of warring Europe, Turkey in the East and Switzerland in the West became invaluable venues as listening posts, financial support sources and political assistance stations in all matters concerning the rescue of refugees.

Barlas, acted as liaison with the US ambassador to Turkey Laurence Steinhardt in Ankara. The Istanbul office transferred funds via known couriers to the Rescue Committees in Budapest and Bratislava, tried to gain temporary entry permits into Turkey for refugees presented with a chance of escape and made every effort to pass illegal immigrant ships through to Palestine defying the British naval blockade.

Barlas maintained close relations with the Vatican�s Nuncio to Turkey, the Apostolic Delegate Roncalli, who made every effort to elicit protests from the Pope. As a result of some of his efforts, the Pope sent warnings to the local rulers in Slovakia and Hungary, to Father Tiso and to Horthy, demanding that they put an immediate stop to the inhuman treatment of Jews and to the deportations. Roncalli, the Nuncio to Turkey and Greece became Pope John XXIII.

Barlas headed this important office until the end of the war when he presumably returned to Jerusalem.

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Becher, Kurt Andreas Alexander Ernst (1909-1995)
            SS Standartenfeuhrer - Colonel 

In 1948, upon his release from the Nuremberg detention and trials which found him to have been merely a �fellow traveler,� the supposedly penniless Becher went back to his Hamburg birthplace  where he had apprenticed and where in the early 1930�s he had become a manager in the Hamburg Jewish grain merchant company Simonis.

Suddenly came into funds with which he proceeded to buy a grain trading company. He operated it under that company�s old name rather than under his own name. The Marshall Plan and Point-Four economic assistance programs for Europe, found him at the right place to exploit his pre-war expertise in grain and foodstuffs trading. He moved to Bremen where he established his growing business enterprise. Under the guise of yet another company he owned, he became one of the largest importers of Hungarian foodstuffs. Conagra, the giant American agribusiness companies became partners in his holding company, Kurt A. Becher GMBH. His business prospered and grew with branches all over Germany, in major European cities, in the United States, and South America. Deposed in Germany for the Eichmann trial, he refused to travel to Israel.

Nominated to many prominent German corporate boards. He employed many former SS officers. Given his own history he had to resign from some of these boards. The Dutch refused to do business with him. He operated under different business names. His importing firm became one of the largest food importers from Hungary. The Hungarians knew full well with whom they were dealing. Still pending in the Hungarian courts was the accusation that Becher robbed the country to the tune of at least $3 billion. From Cologne, another one of his firms did extensive foodstuff business with Israel. When elected to the board of Hapag-Lloyd, one of the leading German shipping companies in Hamburg, press attacks hauling out his SS past, forced him to resign once more.

A respected pillar of his community and a member in good standing of the German economic establishment. He amassed great wealth estimated at over thirty million dollars. He died, in Bremen, honored, feted and respected, in 1995 at the age eighty-six.

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Ben-Gurion, David (1886-1973)

Head of the Jewish Agency and first Premier of Israel

Born David Gruen in Plonsk, Belarus, he arrived in Palestine as a twenty year-old to fulfill his Zionist convictions. Expelled by the Turks in 1915, he traveled to the US and returned in 1918 to start a career as a Zionist politician with the labor movement. In 1933, he became head of the Jewish Agency, structured as a shadow government of the Jewish population in Palestine, the Yishuv. Displayed incredible leadership against odds from the outside as well as from inside the Yishuv and his party, the MAPAI.   

Ben-Gurion had one overriding objective - the establishment of the State of Israel. It grew in intensity during the war. He was dedicated to this premise and would not let anything interfere with the achievement of this goal. He realized that the only power to help him expedite this on a practical level were the British, the temporary landlords, the holders of the Mandate. Early on he put the emphasis on able-bodied young Chalutzim, capable to build and defend a country. Brand�s mission of a million people was not compatible with his agenda. In his pre-war trip through Eastern Europe he had not been impressed with the human material he met. Assuming there would come a million people? Would MAPAI lose its dominance through this sudden new-comer voter influx? How many of the million offered fit the able�bodied schematic with which one can build a State?  Then there was the other point, that of the British cooperation. To push too hard, to fight them, will make them uncooperative. It will cause delays Thus, in conclusion � establishing Israel is preferential to bringing a million people out.

The question still begs for an answer: �Why did they not engage in a make-believe negotiations ploy, just to gain time, exchange some fake correspondence, create some illusionary cable traffic, make some misleading radio announcements, make the Germans believe that their offer was under consideration and that it is being discussed. Why not do that?� The answer could be that the British would not have participated, although they produced a great number of subterfuge projects and were masters at it. Maybe Ben-Gurion was loathe to rattle them, he wanted to keep them amenable for the big occasion.

On 15 May 1948 Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the independent state of Israel Acting as Minister of Defense and Prime Minister, responsible for the creation of the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF. Resigned the premiership in 1953. Retires to Kibbutz Sde-Boker in the Negev. Returned to office in 1955 as Minister of Defense and subsequently as Prime Minister until 1963 when he retired again and returned to Kibbutz Sde-Boker in the heart of the Negev desert.  In 1973, at age eighty-seven, he died in Sde-Boker.

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Bernadotte, Count Folke (1895-1948)

Grandson of King Oscar II of Sweden. A Swedish diplomat who towards the end of WW II, organized the �White Buses,� ferrying close to fifteen thousand Scandinavian internees from German camps to Sweden, he received a number of surrender proposals from Himmler, submitted without Hitler�s knowledge, which he conveyed to Churchill, Truman, and Eisenhower and which were all turned down. In 1947, after a series of United Nations Palestine partition proposals he was appointed UN mediator for Palestine. In the midst of the Arab-Israeli war he negotiated a cease-fire intending to use some of the existing boundaries as a foundation for a permanent settlement of territories. Bernadotte submitted a number of proposals in secret sessions to the American the British and the Russian UN Security Council members. The Israeli government strongly criticized and objected to the spirit and content of the proposals and found them biased. In September 1948, LEHI members of the so called Stern-gang ambushed Bernadotte�s car in the Katamon section of Jerusalem and shot him at point blank range. The assassination was approved by the LEHI leadership of Yitzhak Shamir, Nathan Yellin-Mor and Israel Sheib-Eldad. The government reacted by disarming the LEHI and arresting its leadership and many of its members. Count Bernadotte succumbed to his wounds at the Hadassah hospital, at age fifty-three.

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Biss, Andreas

Budapest-born of Jewish parents, he was brought up in Transylvania with his father�s second wife, a Christian of German-Saxon stock. Educated in German Protestant schools, he then studied Law and Economics in Vienna, finally choosing chemistry. He continued his studies in the field in Berlin and Toulouse, graduating as a chemical engineer. Upon return to Hungary, he entered industry as co-owner of an oven and industrial ceramics works. 

Although equipped with official Christian papers, he joined the Budapest Rescue Committee as the only outsider without any prior Zionist party affiliations or history. Committed to his chosen task, he lent his considerable talents selflessly to it, disregarding any personal risks. He worked closely with Kastner and with his cousin Joel Brand and the rest of the Committee and substituted for Kastner during Kastner�s absence from Budapest. He handled negotiations with the Germans and afterwards with the Russians on behalf of the Committee. Had close, personal contacts with SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Otto Klages the SD and Gestapo head in Budapest, who had direct phone access to Himmler. He knew and negotiated with Eichmann, Becher, Krumey, Wisliceny, and others, as well as with Saly Mayer in Switzerland. Headed the Rescue Committee till the end of the war in May 1945. Lived intermittently in Switzerland and Berlin.

During the Eichmann trial he was invited to Jerusalem as a witness. The day for his testimony in court was set. However, shortly before, the prosecution discovered that he would testify in Kastner's favor, he was advised to refrain from such explicit testimony and leave the part unmentioned. Biss refused. His testimony was canceled and he flew back to Europe.

He published several books recounting his Rescue Committee experiences. He died in Germany.

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Born, Friedrich (1903-1987)

Director of the International Red Cross in Budapest

A Swiss businessman from Bern, who came to Budapest before the war as an official of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Trade, he stayed on after his tenure and lived in Budapest pursuing his private business affairs. In 1944, he was appointed as the Swiss Delegate of the Internazionales Rotes Kreuz (IRK) � the International Red Cross.  He immediately recognized the plight of the Jews and committed his organization and himself to their relief. He provided hiding places, conferred credentials, protested to the Hungarians and Germans, alerted the outside world, and challenged the perpetrating authorities through last minute, audacious interventions. Advised by Karl Lutz, the Swiss Consul, he hired three thousand Jews as office employees, issued fifteen thousand Schutzbriefe-protection documents, actively prevented deportations and worked closely and in tandem with Kastner, R�v�sz, Krausz and others of the Rescue Committee.  He put the IRK buildings in Budapest at the disposal of the Rescue Committee for use as a refuge from the Arrow-Cross, as hiding places, for meeting venues, for the distribution of documents all under the active protection of his organization. In January 1945, the occupying Soviets expelled Born from Budapest. Born is credited with saving upwards of fifteen thousand Jews in Budapest. Born, hailing from Bern, died in 1987, aged eighty-four.

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Brand, Hansi (1912-2000)

Budapest-born Hansi Hartmann was a lovely young woman, socially active, and full of life and joy. She studied psychology at the university where she embraced Zionism. She met Joel Brand who just returned to Hungary in 1933. She was an ardent Zionist and Joel was a rabid Communist agitator, who roamed the world on his missions. They married in 1935 and settled down to run knitting and glove factory.  Soon Joel converted to Zionism and they put their considerable talents to work for their cause.

People who knew her and worked with her, called her �The Woman Who Knows No Fear.� She was a committed person, tough, ready to fight her battles. She was a person of initiative and did not shy away from carrying them out, without fuss and without self aggrandizement. She was both a thinker, full of wisdom, a strategic planner as well as a field operative, a ground soldier and one not loathe to step into the mud and dirty her shoes. 

Before Kastner arrived in Budapest, she and her husband Joel visited Eichmann daily and in the interim, when Joel went off to Istanbul, she handled Eichmann and gained his respect. She loathed him and the petit-bourgeois mannerisms of this murderer. She stood up to him time and again and he knew that he was facing a hardened adversary. With Kastner�s arrival from Kolozsv�r, they became a trio of courageous, young, brave Zionist activists. When Joel left for Istanbul, Hansi introduced Kastner to Eichmann.

Hansi and Kastner became lovers. When asked at the Eichmann trial to verify their relationship, she confirmed it in public. 

As the Nazis entered in 1944, three hundred thousand Hungarian Jews were sent to concentration camps in Poland. Among them was Hansi�s younger sister, her husband, and their two children. It hit Hansi hard. She started to fully comprehend what was happening. She could not make peace with the fact of losing them. A very strong-willed person by nature, and endowed with resolve and courage, she was not ready to suffer this passively. She employed a well-connected Hungarian espionage agent, Jozsef Krem who agreed for large sums of money to bring her sister and family out to safety.

From that catalytic moment on, the trio of Hansi, Joel, and Kastner threw themselves into the task of saving people with their Rescue Committee.

In Israel, straight talking Hansi caused an unabated furor remarking that Chana Szenes, the celebrated parachutist heroine, broke under the torture and revealed the whereabouts of her comrades Joel Palgi and Peretz Goldstein, their landing place as well as their schedules and meeting places. Hansi spoke out in view of her own experience and behavior when she was interrogated under torture by the Hungarians and her steadfastness during dire duress. She further derided their mission as stupid and harmful, sloppily organized, unprepared, and handled with extreme irresponsibility. The mission was billed as coming to save Jews. It interrupted delicate negotiations with Eichmann as well as the ones conducted behind Eichmann�s back. A train loaded with one thousand six hundred eighty-four passengers waited to move out of the Kellenf�ldi railroad station. It jeopardized the Jewish Chalutz underground activists in Budapest and many of the ongoing clandestine operations that had to be held back. The parachutists were heroes, she said, with no place to go. There was no exit strategy. It was a waste of three beautiful young people and it was a mess.

Throughout the siege of Budapest and the horrific Red Army bombardments and shelling Hansi assumed another task. She searched day and night among the ruins for the many abandoned Jewish children, left behind when their parents were deported. Totally abandoned, traumatized, and foraging for food and shelter they ranged from toddlers to teens. Many died. Hansi assigned herself the task of collecting the strays from among the ruins and cellars and bring them to the children homes being run by the Chalutzim and the Red Cross. In tandem she cared for her two little boys and was actively engaged in the Kastner rescue efforts.

After the war, Hansi and her boys made their way to Switzerland and on to Palestine where they were reunited with Joel. The Brands settled in Kibbutz Giv�at-Brenner, and then moved to Tel Aviv. Years later Hansi revealed, �Joel I liked, he is the father of my sons, Kastner, I loved.�

Hansi found employment as a social worker with the Tel Aviv Municipality. She then worked at an orphanage in a Tel Aviv working class suburb.  Ever active, she made it her business to meet soldiers, waiting at the ubiquitous army hitchhiking posts stations along the roads. She prepared and brought along little bags of walnuts, sweets, and candy for distribution to the soldiers.  �These are the fighters who protect us, let�s give them some attention,� she kept saying.

As was her custom, she rose at four o�clock in the morning, straightening her bed and preparing for the day. On that particular day of April 2000, she suddenly felt ill. She went to the door, releasing the lock and called her neighbors for help. When the ambulance arrived, eighty-eight year-old Hansi was gone. She was laid to rest next to her son Michael and her husband Joel. 

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Brand, Joel (1906-1964)

Born in Nasaud, Transylvania, his family immigrated to Erfurt in Germany when he was a toddler and where his father owned and operated a telephone company. Raised and educated in Germany, he joined during his university years the Communist party and became an international operative for the Comintern. In the late 1920�s and early 1930�s he traveled to the US, China, Philippines, Japan, and South America, sometimes as a merchant sailor. He was imprisoned in China and Weimar Germany for his political activities. He returned to Hungary in 1933 and was converted to an activist Zionist.

He was known for his penchant for clandestine field work, in which he excelled and he became an action craving member of the Budapest Rescue Committee where he exploited the low-level street contacts he had in expediting rescue operations. Upon the entry of the Germans into Budapest in March 1944, Brand as a representative of the Rescue Committee was called before Eichmann who presented him with the �Blood for Goods� proposal. Brand and his wife Hansi negotiated with Eichmann until his departure to Istanbul on Eichmann�s behest, at which point Kastner assumed the negotiations with Eichmann and the other SS officials.

After the war, Joel Brand and his family settled in Israel, first in a Kibbutz then they moved to Tel Aviv. At times he was destitute, all the while bemoaning the failure of his mission. Action craving, he had a hard time finding his place. Tragedy struck by the loss of his young son to illness. He grew embittered. The loss of Kastner affected him. He testified at the Eichmann trial, yet the government carefully monitored him, concerned as to what unwanted information he might reveal sort about the performance of its leaders during his wartime mission. In 1964, a relatively young Brand, only fifty-eight, succumbed to liver disease and died in Israel.

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Brunner, Alois (1912-1996?) 

SS Hauptsturmfuehrer � Captain

A former window dresser for a Jewish department store in Vienna, Brunner was one of the most brutal and efficient SS operatives during the Final Solution and a close and favorite associate of Eichmann. After the war he changed his name to Alois Schmaldienst and fled to Linz. He worked under an assumed name as a trucker for the US Army.  He then moved to Germany and lived unhindered in Essen. Many West German government officials as well as old SS colleagues, who attained official positions in the Bonn government, lent him crucial assistance in hiding and in fleeing in time ahead of the law. In 1954, he was sentenced to death in absentia by a French court and was then recruited to the new West-German Reinhard Gehlen Intelligence organization, an anti-Soviet spy network operated by Hitler�s former Eastern Front Intelligence chief. The Gehlen Organization helped him get to Damascus where he acted as the local Gehlen agent for the Middle East and advised the Syrian government in intelligence and police matters. Based on his past experience, he was hired as a �Jewish Expert� by the Syrian secret service. For a while, he represented a famous Dortmund brewery in Syria. As a result of a Mossad letter bomb addressed to him in Damascus, he lost an eye and four fingers of his left hand. In 1987, at age seventy-five, he told an American interviewer the �he regrets nothing, Jews deserved to die, if he had a chance, he would do it all over again.� Repeated extradition requests by a number of countries to Syria were all rebuffed. As late as 1996 reports appeared of his sighting in the Syrian capital, others claimed that he died there that year and was buried in Damascus. Others yet claimed that the then eighty-four year-old Brunner had been living in luxury at the �Meridien� hotel in Damascus.

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Ciller, Antal

When Laci Devecseri and his father Emil ran their engineering/construction company headquartered in Kolozsv�r with branches all over Hungary and an office in Romania, they developed a working relationship with the architect Antal Ciller. When the Germans entered Budapest in March 1944 the Devesceris �sold� the company to Ciller so it could claim Christian ownership and retain its extensive work for the Hungarian army among others.

Ciller, an army reserve captain on Laci�s request went to Kolozsv�r in his uniform and accompanied Laci�s sister and her two little girls to Budapest. Ciller has proven exceptional in his dealings with Laci and meticulously compensated him for his share for every transaction that occurred.

There is little known about his post-war whereabouts. It seems that Ciller ended up in Switzerland after the war.

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Dannecker, Theo

SS Hauptsturmfuehrer � Captain

A lawyer and early agent in Eichmann�s office working on the �Final Solution�. Active in France, Bulgaria, Italy, and Hungary in organizing and supervising deportations to the East. A fanatical anti-Semite who castigated the Vichy government for not persecuting its Jews in a more aggressive manner. Spent his entire career in Eichmann�s office. He committed suicide in 1945 as an inmate in an American prison camp.

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Devecseri, Ladislas �Laci� (1907-2005)

A contemporary of Kastner from Kolozsv�r. A civil engineer like his father, Emil. They owned and ran their engineering and construction firm with branches in Bucharest, Romania and other cities in Hungary. Emil Devecseri was a scion of a family of Hungarian patriots and of an assimilated Jewish family. Emil proudly served his Austro-Hungarian Kaiser in World War I as an officer, and the family counted prominent newspaper editors among its members. Like many other similar families, their forbearers Magyarized their names from the original Levy. One of their biggest clients was the Hungarian army for which they produced prefabricated barracks, bridges, and major buildings.

From 1944 on, Laci worked closely with Kastner, and among others, built the barracks overnight to preempt Eichmann and to accommodate the people at the Kolumbus utca camp.

His wife Barbara was the niece of Joel Brand. Laci, his wife, two sons and his parents, left on the first train from Bergen-Belsen to Switzerland. They moved to Israel after the war, residing in Haifa. After a stint in private practice Laci accepted a position with Solel Boneh Foreign Works Department, Israel�s largest engineering � Construction Company and was assigned to head their projects in Djibouti, then a French possession on the Horn of Africa where Solel Boneh was carrying out a contract for the French Army.

He divided his time between Paris and Haifa and after the fall of Communism added an apartment in Budapest to his overseas abodes. His elder son followed in his father�s footsteps and entered the engineering profession, working on major international projects around the world.

Recruiting like-minded colleagues, passengers on the 1944 train to Switzerland and former co-workers of Kastner from all parts of the world, Laci was indefatigable in getting the true story of Kastner out, all the time combating and stemming the flood of falsehoods and maligning  articles appearing in newspapers, magazines and books.

On July 7, 2002, on the grounds of the great Dohanyi Synagogue in Budapest, Laci, at the age of ninety-five, spoke at the unveiling of a monument to Kastner and the Rescue Committee he initiated, organized and fought for the past two years, in the presence of the Budapest mayor, government ministers, noted scholars and a host of dignitaries.

 On Vaci utca 12, the building where Kastner lived during 1944, Laci had the city mount a commemorative marble plaque on the fa�ade and saw to it, paying for it himself, that every year on the day marking Kastner�s death, a fresh flower wreath was hung on a special hook reserved next to the plaque.

In his final years, Laci appeared on many programs, was interviewed many times by the BBC at length, wrote his memoirs and articles for the local Hungarian press. He kept a lively correspondence with many institutions, contributed to Steven Spielberg�s Shoah project and cooperated with Dr. Rahe, the director of the Bergen-Belsen Gedaenkstaette, the former camp, now a museum, where his mother, Sidonia�s diary, illustrated by the noted artist Irsay,  occupies a central place in the museum.

In 2005, ninety-eight year-old Laci passed away in Leanyfalu, a village a few miles outside of Budapest, where he spent the last years of his active life.

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Domonkos, Miksa

Budapest Jewish Council member

Domonkos was an important member of the Jewish Council, in charge of the technical department. His imposing physical presence and exceptional bravery and courage deterred many attempts by the Arrow-Cross from attacking and looting designated Schutzh�user and Jewish dwellings. In the Ghetto he donned the uniform of a Hungarian army captain, posed as a representative of the Hungarian Ministry of Defense, berated and chased away any of the political street gang�s attempts to harm the Ghetto. He worked closely with Wallenberg and was among the last three persons who dined with Wallenberg the night before his disappearance by the Soviets. After the war, he was apprehended by the Hungarian Communist regime and together with other former members of the Council was accused of Zionist activities and was put on the 1953 show - trials instigated by Stalin in Moscow and repeated by the M�ty�s R�kosi�s Communist dictatorship in Hungary. After extended imprisonment and of torture and deprivation, he was released after Stalin�s death and the killing of Lavrenty Beria in Moscow. In 1953, a short time after his release, trying to recuperate from his prolonged ordeal and damaged health Miksa Domonkos died in the hospital.

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Eckstein Zeev, Shemer Dan, Menkes Yosef

Kastner�s Assassins

Not much was heard about the two assassins and the people behind them, Menkes and Cheruti. Eckstein, Shemer, and Menkes served jail time, until Ben-Gurion pardoned them in a high handed, unconstitutional manner. According to Israeli law, only a president can issue pardons. It is not the purview of a prime minister. It was an intriguing tale of a proprietary behavior that long-term power spawns. Barnea, a prominent Israeli journalist reported that a new member of Kibbutz Sde-Boker latched on to Ben-Gurion on his walks along the Kibbutz paths and pleaded to free Menkes who otherwise would lose his sanity. Ignoring the vehement objections of the then Justice Minister Joseph, through whose office such requests must be by law channeled first and then recommended to President Ben-Zvi. Ben-Gurion after cajoling Kastner�s young daughter and securing her agreement in principle to free the three, disregarded all procedures, high handedly shoving the law aside and arbitrarily stepping over all safeguards and considerations involved in the clemency procedure. A question arose whether Menkes� violent and vengeful nature may kill again, for example the judge who sent him to jail may be his next target. Ben-Gurion battled with his reluctant Justice Minister who refused to put his signature to the mockery, but who surrendered at the end. President Ben-Zvi soon died in office and was replaced by Zalman Shazar, a willing collaborator �who gladly� legitimized the application. Thus Ben-Gurion plowed ahead and had his way in setting the three free.

Within five months they were all out, not bad for a murder rap and a political one at that. Eckstein, a former Shin-Bet operative, is known to have worked in a Tel Aviv printing plant; there is no reliable information about the others, including Cheruti who was practicing law at one time.

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Eichmann, Adolf   (1906-1962)

SS Obersturmbannfuehrer - Lt. Colonel

Born to middle-class Germans and raised in Linz, Austria, where Ernst Kaltenbrunner, a family friend of the Eichmann�s, advised the young Adolf to join the Nazi party and the SS. Dealing with the �Jewish Question� Eichmann gained a reputation as an expert, studying both Judaism and Hebrew. In 1937, he and his superior went to visit Palestine meeting and discussing the feasibility of immigration with Haganah officials although the idea was discarded after further meetings with Arab representatives in Cairo. Eichmann advanced through administrative jobs in the Dachau concentration camp to head Amt IV b4 of the RSHA under Reinhard Heydrich, the �Jewish Department� charged with cleansing Germany and later Europe of Jews. He assisted in organizing the Wannsee Konferenz which laid the final groundwork for the Holocaust. He arrived in Hungary in 1944 after implementing the extermination of Jews throughout Nazi occupied Europe and proceeded to deport over half a million Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz with the enthusiastic support of Hungarian government officials.

Escaping after the war, he went to Linz to Kaltenbrunner to find refuge. Kaltenbrunner distanced himself from Eichmann. He found him too prominent a target for Holocaust crime hunters and did not want to be found near him. Eichmann was apprehended in Italy by Allied forces but slipped through the net under his assumed name of Otto Eckmann. With the aid of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Alois Hudal, one of the founders of the �ratline� expediting the escape of war criminals, he obtained an International Red Cross Refugee passport under the then name of Ricardo Klement and landed permits for himself and his family in Argentina. In 1950, he sailed from Genoa to Buenos Aires where he worked as a mechanic, factory foreman and rabbit breeding farm manager. The Eichmann�s had four sons, the youngest born in Argentina.

Tracing Eichmann led all the way to Konrad Adenauer�s close aide and national Security adviser Hans Josef Globke. A jurist, whose application for Nazi party membership was turned down by Martin Bormann, a fact that gave him a clean bill of health in the de-Nazification process and led him to a top Bonn government post.  Globke however was the formulator of the anti-Jewish Nazi Nuremberg laws designed to deprive German Jews of their citizenship and rights and the ensuing anti-Jewish laws, the precursors to the Holocaust. Globke worked with Eichmann�s department during the war, a fact known to the CIA but under government pressure hushed up so as not to offend Adenauer.

Lothar Hermann, a former Dachau prisoner living in Buenos Aires realized one day, when his daughter Sylvia was dating Klaus Klement, Eichmann�s son was boasting of the importance of his father during the war. When his daughter reported about her visit to Eichmann�s home where Eichmann opened the door in person for her, Lothar Hermann�s suspicion that Klement may be a �big fish� took hold. He contacted the German prosecutors who notified the Mossad.

In 1960, in a swift, clandestine operation Ricardo Klement - Adolf Eichmann was abducted near his home in Argentina by Mossad agents, brought to a waiting El Al Bristol Britannia plane at the Buenos Aires airport and whisked to Israel for trial.

The trial, starting in 1962,  was presided over by three judges � Moshe Landau, Benjamin Halevy of the recent Gruenwald-Kastner case fame and Yitzchak Rave. It lasted fourteen weeks and found him guilty on all counts. On 1 June, 1962, aged fifty-six, Eichmann was hanged, cremated, and his ashes scattered over the Mediterranean. 

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Endre, L�szl� (1895-1946)
Hungarian Under Secretary of State, Ministry of the Interior

Radical right-wing police chief in the provinces, then deputy police chief of Budapest with long standing ties to German National�Socialists.  Upon the German entry into Hungary, he maintained close ties to Eichmann and under his guidance as Deputy Minister of the Interior oversaw and expedited the deportations of the Hungarian Jews. Escaped Budapest prior to the siege in 1945, he was apprehended by American troops and extradited to Hungary to stand trial. Sentenced to death he was executed in Budapest in 1946, aged fifty-one.

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Ferenczy, L�szl�

Gendarmerie Lt. Colonel

Ferenczy was among the Three L�szl�s� � L�szl� Baky, L�szl� Endre and  L�szl� Ferenczy, directly responsible for the demise of half a million Hungarian Jews. As ordered by Undersecretaries of the Ministry of the Interior, Endre and Baky, Lt. Colonel Ferenczy emptied the provinces first of Jews, via direct train shipments to Auschwitz. Without his help the deportations would not have succeeded given the small number of SS and Gestapo detailed to locate and deport half a million Jews. At war�s end, Ferenczy was apprehended fleeing in Austria. He was brought to Budapest to stand trial and was executed in 1946.

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Freudiger, Rabbi Fűlop von (1900-1976)

Following his father as rabbi of the Orthodox community in Budapest in 1939, Fűlop von Freudiger was a deep rooted and established leader in the Jewish community of Budapest. He was one of the founders of the Relief and Rescue Committee in Budapest, involved in aid to the many refugees from Poland, Czechoslovakia who came into the haven of Budapest in 1943.

After the German�s entry into Budapest he served on the Judenrat. He bribed Wisliceny to release eighty well known orthodox Jews and rabbis from ghettos and detention In August 1944, without telling his fellow colleagues on the Committee or to anyone of his community, he fled his post with his family to Bucharest, aided by Wisliceny. He later proceeded to Israel where he became a rather controversial figure because of his membership in the Judenrat and for abandoning his flock in Budapest. In 1961 he gave evidence at the Eichmann trial. He died in 1976, aged seventy-six.

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Grosz, Bandi (1908-1976)

A prolific spy who worked for half a dozen intelligence agencies, among them the German Abwehr, Kaltenbrunner's SD, the Hungarian military intelligence, Eichmann, the British, the Poles, the French, and Japanese. He was born in Beregovo, Ukraine to Aaron and Ilona Grosz. He started his career as a rug dealer and smuggler, being arrested and offering his services to avoid further arrest. Acting as a Balkans courier for the Abwehr, he made frequent round-trips to Turkey. He also provided the Rescue Committee with information and acted as its sometime courier on the Committee�s vital lifeline for funding from the Jewish Agency�s office in Istanbul. A veritable spy department-store he was well connected and well informed. After the war he lived in Israel and in Switzerland, traveling around on his mysterious missions. He died in 1970, at age sixty-two in Munich, Germany.

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Gr�son, Max / ( 1915 � Unknown)

SS Hauptsturmf�hrer � Captain, Kurt Becher�s deputy.

An SS-man who was sympathetic to Jews. He confirmed a highly exaggerated appraisal of confiscated Jewish valuables for Eichmann in order to enable the departure of the Musterzug train from Budapest. He preferred the company of the Jews he met during his work, over that of his riffraff SS colleagues. Unfortunately it led to his arrest and recall to Berlin. He was never heard from again. The Jews who knew him and dealt with him were always puzzled of how he ever became a member of the SS, a dedicated murder organization.

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Halevi, Benjamin (1910-1996)

Supreme Court Judge, LIKUD member of Parliament

German-born and educated, Halevi immigrated to Palestine in 1933.  Active in Jerusalem as Justice of the Lower Court, District Judge and Chief Judge. He officiated at the Gruenwald - Kastner trial in 1955 and at the Eichmann trial in 1961. Placed on the LIKUD ticket for parliament, he became a LIKUD member of the Knesset from 1969 to 1981. Died in 1996 at age eighty-six.

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Horthy, Mikl�s (1868-1957)

Admiral, Regent of Hungary

Former admiral commanding the Austro-Hungarian navy in World Was I and Regent and head of state of Hungary from 1920 until 1944. War�s end found Horthy detained by the Nazis in a castle in Bavaria and then taken prisoner by the U.S. Army. He was held in protective custody till the end of 1945. Upon his release he sought asylum in Portugal, where he spent the rest of his days and where he died in 1957 at age eighty-nine. In 1993 after the Russians left Hungary, Horthy�s remains were brought back to Hungary and he was reburied in Kenderes, his birthplace.

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Horthy, Mikl�s, Jr. (1907-1993)

After his older brother�s death in 1942, Miklos, Jr. gained a higher degree of importance as his father�s political aide, advocating separation from Nazi Germany. Kidnapped by Otto Skorzeny, the famous SS commando leader, he and his father surrendered under threat of death. After the war, he followed his father into exile in Portugal where he lived on for fifty years. He died in Lisbon in 1993, at age eighty-six.

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Hunsche, Otto 

SS Hauptsturmfuehrer - Captain

On Eichmann�s permanent staff, Hunsche was particularly active in Hungary with expediting and supervising deportations. He was sporadically called to court in Germany after the war, spent some time in prison but was released. After another trial he was convicted but released again for time served.

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International Committee of the Red Cross / ICRC

The ICRC, or IRK for Internazionales Rotes Kreuz in German was a private humanitarian institution headquartered in Geneva. Founded by Henry Dunant in 1859, a Swiss businessman who after witnessing the carnage and the abandoned wounded soldiers after the battle of Solferino was prompted to establish nursing services and medical care for the wounded in battle.

The organization was devoted to tending to the wounded, to prisoners, to refugees, to civilians in peril and other non-combatants. It is dedicated to saving lives. The organization spawned the idea and the establishment of the Geneva Convention.

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Jewish CouncilDer Judenrat

Two days after their entry into Hungary, the Germans ordered the Budapest Jewish community leaders to establish a Judenrat, a proven instrument the Nazis used in the past to convey orders and instructions to the Jewish community through their own elders with the objective of keeping the community quiet and giving the illusion of self-rule, all in preparation to ship them to their death.

Samu Stern the president of the Jewish Community was nominated as the president of the Judenrat. Stern was a successful banker and bore the title of Hofrat, that of adviser to the Royal Hungarian Court. He was assisted by Lajos Stoeckler and Miksa Domonkos in running the eight member council, which included Erno Boda,  Erno Peto, Karoly Wilhelm, Samu Csobadi, Samu Kahan-Frankel, Fűlop Freudiger, and Nison Kahan.

The council functioned under Eichmann�s direction; aided mainly by Krumey and Wisliceny It was considered a compliant body.

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Jewish Agency for Palestine, The

Specified in Article 4 of the �British Mandate for Palestine� formulated at the post WW I San Remo Conference in 1920 and confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, the Article called for the formation of an Agency that will administer and respond to the needs of the Zionist and Jewish population of Palestine The Arabs were offered the opportunity to establish a parallel agency, but their leadership turned it down.

British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, upon visiting the Middle East in 1920 and 1921 responding to anti-Semitic voices raised in the government claiming that the Jews are not needed to develop  Palestine, said:  �Left to themselves the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps towards irrigation and electrification of Palestine. They would be content to dwell in the wasted sun-drenched plains letting the waters of the Jordan flow unhindered into the Dead Sea.� The Mandate of Palestine-Transjordan was awarded to Britain by the League of Nations while the French were awarded the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon. The British Mandate in Palestine lasted from 1920 to 1948, and was governed by a series of seven High Commissioners.

The Jewish Agency became the quasi-government of the Jewish inhabitants and was headed by Ben Gurion whose party dominated it. It performed all governmental functions in addition to fostering and supporting illegal immigration to Palestine, land purchases, the establishment of settlement and the development and repopulation of the land. The Histadrut became the Jewish Agency�s economic arm and the Haganah its defense force, fending off Arab attacks.

In 1948, upon the British departure and the declaration of the independent state of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Palestine led by Ben- Gurion transformed itself into the provisional government of the new state.

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The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee � The JDC

The JDC, popularly known as the JOINT, was founded shortly after the start of World War I in 1914 in reaction to the dire need for assistance by Jewish communities in Palestine and in Eastern Europe. Henry Morgenthau, the then US ambassador to Turkey asked prominent Jewish-American leaders for fifty thousand dollars for immediate aid. Jacob Schiff and other prominent German-Jewish leaders formed the Central Relief Committee which soon after merged with similar committees organized by orthodox Jews and by socialist Jewish organizations, thus representing all the different Jewish political and religious affiliations, unified under the chairmanship of Felix Warburg. During WW I and in that post-war era, the JOINT was active in restoring communities and lending its support in social services, welfare, educational, medical, reconstruction, transportation, equipment to communities in Eastern Europe. During World War II, from its European headquarters in neutral Lisbon, under the aggressive and committed leadership of Dr. Joe Schwartz it channeled its aid programs and hands-on help to the endlessly rising needs and demands for its services and funding to survivors. As an American organization it was prohibited from any contacts with needed aid in territories occupied by the Nazis. It could only promise its future support as it did with the Kastner negotiations in Switzerland. After the war, the JOINT became an indispensable organization for the millions of survivors and displaced persons; the DP�s languishing in camps.

The SS hierarchy perceived the JOINT as the face and front of World Jewry might. The JOINT supported the illegal immigration into Palestine, the Aliya Bet and the breaking of the British naval blockades.  It cared for the illegal immigrants intercepted on the rickety ships and who were dragged by the British to imprisonment in Cyprus. After the British departure the JOINT assisted the various waves of Aliya to Israel from Arab lands, Ethiopia and later yet from Russia. In Eastern Europe the JOINT became involved in the rebuilding process of the destroyed Jewish communities.

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Kaltenbrunner, Ernst (1903-1946)

SS Obergruppenfűhrer � General

Austrian. Practiced law in Linz. Joined the Nazi party in 1930. An ardent Hitler follower. Arrested for treason connected to his Nazi activities in pre-Nazi Austria. After the Anschluss became Chief of the Austrian SS then Austrian Minister of Internal Security. Police chief of Vienna. Member of the Reichstag. Chief of the Reichsicherheitshauptamt, the RSHA and chief of the SD in Berlin. Arrested in 1945, at war�s end. Leader of the powerful SS faction that opposed any concessions to Jews, regarded Becher with suspicion and reported Himmler�s clandestine moves to Hitler, through his good friend Martin Bormann. Sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials. Executed in 1946 in Nuremberg.

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Kastner, Rezs�, also Rudolf, or Israel (1906-1957)

Rudolf Kastner was born in Kolozsv�r-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.

As a 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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Kersten, Felix (1898-1960)

Born to a German-Baltic family in Estonia, then part of Czarist Russia. Joined the German army. Was part of the German military intervention in the Finnish civil war at the end of WW I. Stayed in Finland and obtained citizenship. Enlisted in the army as a commissioned Lieutenant. Back as a civilian and traveling to Germany and Holland, he gained a number of very influential customers for his special brand of massage, learned from Chinese doctors. He treated members of the Dutch Royal house and political newcomers such as Count Ciano, Mussolini�s son in law and Italian Foreign Minister. His next client was Heinrich Himmler to whom Kersten provided indispensible services by alleviating Himmler�s chronic and severe stomach pains. He did not dare to refuse Himmler�s invitation to become his personal masseur, after Himmler declared that he cannot do without the magical hands of Kersten. He became a Himmler confidant, gaining his full trust. From his unique vantage point, Kersten tried to help and assist people threatened and persecuted by the Nazis. He was instrumental in bringing about personal meeting between Himmler and Swedish Count Bernadotte resulting in the release of busloads of Danes and Norwegians interned in German concentration camps, and another, most unusual  meeting between Himmler and Norbert Masur, the Jewish representative of the Swedish Jewish community  towards the end of the war.  After the war, Kersten lived in Germany and Sweden. He died in Stockholm in 1960, aged sixty-two.

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Kolozsv�r / Klausenburg / Cluj

The major city in Transylvania and an important industrial, cultural and educational center in Romania. The city hovered between Austro-Hungary, Romania and Hungary, assuming its various names. Originally settled by Saxons who came to Siebenbűrgen by invitation of the ruler, later known as Transylvania. Today it is part of Romania again with its Latin-Roman origin name, hyphenated as Cluj-Napoca. Between the wars it became Hungarian, named Kolozsv�r .

Major industries, such as the Dermata leather processing plants and shoe factory belonged to local Jews. Laci Devecseri another son of Kolozsv�r and his father were the premier engineering and construction company responsible for all the major government and business buildings in the city. In 1941, Devecseri built two identical residential apartment houses, which included the latest technologies of the day. When the Germans entered Kolozsv�r, they immediately confiscated the houses, evicted the mostly Jewish residents and turned the buildings into SS headquarters.

The local brick factory on the other side of town was turned into the Kolozsv�r ghetto.  The factory�s railroad siding enabled the swift expedition of the imprisoned directly to Auschwitz.  Eighteen thousand people were kept out in the open, forced through a gauntlet of Hungarian gendarmes who tried to extract, through torture any hidden valuables the Jews may have on their persons, �So that the Hungarian property should not fall into the hands of the Germans.� Wisliceny visited Kolozsv�r numerous times during the height of the deportations from the provinces.

In the Chassidic �Ungarn� rabbinical tradition, Klausenburg-Sanz was an important Chassidic court headed by the Klausenburger Rabbi Halberstam. His court was rabidly anti-Zionist, objecting to settling Palestine. Despite warnings by the Zionists to hide or escape towards the east, as some have done, the warning was ignored because it came from the Zionists resulting in the annihilation of the entire court and followers. Against ransom payment, the rabbi was spared and ended up in a DP camp in Germany, having lost his entire family. He transferred to New York�s Borough Park, where he reunited with some of his followers, reestablished his court and started a new family. Upon the Rabbi�s death in 1994, two of his sons inherited the mantle of Grand Rabbis, one heading the court in Borough-Park, the other in Kiryat-Sanz, near Netanya, Israel.

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Kollek, Teddy (1911-2007)

Theodor Kollek arrived in Palestine from Vienna with his family, at age twenty-four in 1935. Born in Hungary into a Zionist family, he was named after Theodor Herzl, a fellow Hungarian, father of modern Zionism.

In 1937 he was among the co-founders of Kibbutz Ein-Gev, a lone settlement at the time on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee at the foot of Syrian Mount Susita. He soon became a close aide to Ben-Gurion in the Jewish Agency, embarking on important missions. In one, in 1939 he persuaded Eichmann, then a minor official, to release three thousand young Jews to England. In time he went on missions of Aliya Bet, illegal immigration and arms procurements. He actively cooperated with the British in the early 1940�s informing on right-wing underground groups, such as the IRGUN and the LEHI.

He met with Joel Brand on the latter�s mission and chaperoned him for a short time after his release from British internment in Cairo. After Independence, he became the Director General of the Prime Minister�s office. Elected mayor of divided Jerusalem in 1965, he was re-elected five times. Running for a seventh term at age eighty-two, he lost to the right-wing LIKUD�s Ehud Olmert in 1993.

Years later, when asked why Joel Brand and his mission received such a shabby, neglectful treatment in Istanbul and his virtual abandonment during his British internment in Cairo, which smacked of collusion between the Jewish Agency and the British in an attempt to put him on �ice.� And why, the leadership was reluctant to at least �fake� negotiations, produce false documents and let Brand go back to Eichmann? His reaction was,  ��that it was just too long ago for his memory to recall details�and after all, here was a person, Brand, who came from enemy territory in the middle of a war; what do you expect?� To the response, made with a degree of amazement, that all refugees hailed from enemy territory, the very reason why they were refugees, there was no further comment.

Teddy, as everyone called him, devoted his life to Jerusalem. He presided over the unification of the city in 1967 and saw it flourish. His mayoralty excelled as a result of his imaginative, innovative, courageous, and intelligent approach and the leadership he provided embraced the religious, ethnic and cultural diversity of this unique city. Teddy was a mover and shaker on an international scale. Lauded internationally for his legendary tenure, he preserved the old and energetically built the new. Founder of the Israel Museum, the Mishkanot Sha�annanim where world name artists could regenerate their creative juices in specially built, muse inviting abodes, facing the Old City walls in their golden glow and cultural and civic projects too many to mention. Teddy Kollek died in Jerusalem at age ninety-six.

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Kolumbusz utca Camp

Established on the spur of the moment when Kastner had to preempt any Eichmann excuses and prove to him that a group brought in from Kolozsv�r could be accommodated.  The so-called Kolombusz Street Camp was erected overnight by Laci Devecseri with the purpose of furnishing temporary space for designated passengers waiting to board the Musterzug to Switzerland and future trains that will follow. The chosen site was the garden section of the Wechslemann Institute for the Deaf, Mute and Blind in a leafy, quiet neighborhood of Budapest. The entire camp became a part of the Reichsgeheimnis, based on the deal between the Germans and the Jews from which the Hungarians had to be kept away.

Eichmann furnished a contingent of SS guards, assigned to guard the little camp against intruders. The Hungarians were strictly forbidden to come near it let alone enter the camp. The Jews were free to come and go. The picture of SS guards protecting Jews added a strong dose of incredulity to the scene and endless frustrations to the Hungarian Gendarmerie, police and Arrow-Cross as well as high officers, key officials and  government ministers who came along and were not only  prevented from entering but were ordered to leave the area.

The camp was maintained after the Musterzug�s departure on 30 June, 1944 and served as a hiding place for escapees from the Hungarian labor battalions.

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Krumey, Hermann (1905 - ?)

SS Obersturmbannfuehrer � Lt. Colonel

A pharmacist by profession and then a regional leader of a gymnastics association, Krumey joined the SS with the rank of Obersturmbannfuehrer. Assigned to Lodz in Poland he expedited death camp transports and occupied high positions in the SS extermination units. Involved in the eradication of Lidice, the Czech village, in reprisal for Heydrich�s assassination, close to one hundred children were sent from the village to Krumey�s Lodz office for handling and for which he ordered 'special treatment� i:e extermination.

He joined Eichmann in Hungary and greatly aided Kastner in Slovakia and in Vienna.  He drove Joel Brand and Bandi Grosz to Vienna and arranged their flight to Istanbul out of Vienna. He was sent by Eichmann to Bergen-Belsen to supervise the one thousand six hundred eighty-four passenger transport to Switzerland and on Eichmann�s orders held back the Brand relatives as hostages. He divided the groups going to Switzerland and acceded to Laci Devecseri pleas to let them join the first group so that his sick infant son may survive.

He was arrested by the Allies in 1945 and was released in 1948 pursuant to an affidavit Kastner submitted on his behalf in return for his help in the rescue of Jews in Hungary, Slovakia and in Vienna. He went to Korbach Germany where he became active in local government. His case kept coming up and he was rearrested in 1957, �58 and 60. Each time he was released. In 1969 he was tried again, the court summoning witnesses from around the world. Laci Devecseri contemplated to come and testify on his behalf, still being grateful for saving his son�s life in Bergen-Belsen. The following day, Laci saw the story of the Lidice children, after further inquiries, he decided not to attend Krumey�s trial. Krumey was sentenced to life. In a 1973 appeal, sixty-eight year-old Krumey�s verdict was upheld.

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LaGuardia � Gluck, Gemma (1881-1962)

Born in New York City in 1881 to an Italian-Jewish mother and a non-practicing catholic Italian father, Gemma, sister of Fiorello, grew up in New York. The family periodically went back to Trieste, the city of her mother�s aristocratic ancestry. In time she started to teach English there and married one of her students, Hermann Gluck from Hungary and joined him in Budapest. In 1944, as soon as the Germans entered Budapest, the Glucks were on top of their wanted-list because of her brother�s anti-Nazi outspokenness in the US, and were promptly arrested and shipped to concentration camps. Gemma was sent to the notorious women�s camp of Ravensbrueck, north of Berlin and Hermann, her husband was sent to Mauthausen in Austria. Released in Berlin at the end of the war at age sixty-four, together with her daughter and grandchild she found out that her husband perished in Mauthausen. Despite her brother�s prominence and the fact of her US birth, it took another two years for her and the remainder of her family to reach the United States, where she arrived in 1947, a few months before Fiorello LaGuardia�s death of cancer. She lived out the rest of her life in low-income housing projects build by the LaGuardia administration. She died in 1962 at age eighty-one. 

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Langlet, Waldemar & Nina

Head of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest

Dr. Langlet came to Budapest in the early 1930�s holding dual positions, as reader and professor at the University in Budapest and as an official in the Swedish legation. During the outbreak of the war he became the head of the SRC, the Swedish Red Cross in Hungary. He and his wife displayed extraordinary courage and devised many ploys in their untiring effort of saving Jews, with special emphasis on children. He rented buildings, pasting fake signs reading �Swedish Library� and �Swedish Research Institute� which he used to provide hiding places for Jews. They produced and procured documents, food, and clothing, in their embassy car, designed to be ready at a moment�s notice for a cry for help. Dr, Langlet assisted Wallenberg and looked after the Schutzh�user. He and his wife Nina worked closely with Peretz R�v�sz and his team of young Chalutzim. The couple performed incredible feats, all to save human lives. Nina outlived her husband, who passed away after the war. Modest, shying away from the limelight, she finally visited Israel and embarrassingly acknowledged the honors given her and to her late husband in special ceremonies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

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Lutz, Karl and Gertrude

Swiss Vice Consul in Budapest

Karl Lutz was the first neutral diplomat that initiated actions of saving Jews. He invented the Schutzp�sse, documents of protection, and issued them to over sixty thousand to Jews in Budapest. He planted the Swiss flag on over seventy-five Schutzh�user, assuring protection from attack, for its dwellers. He expedited people out of the country, searching and opening escape routes. 

He was an early collaborator and a member of the top diplomatic life-saving quartet with Raoul Wallenberg, the Swede, Angelo Rotta, the Papal Nuncio, and Friedrich Born, the head of the IRK. They were constantly devising means and methods and life saving instruments He and his wife Gertrude, devoted every waking moment to discover, deliver, and extract Jews from the Hungarian and German persecutors. Parked on a street, he would leave the doors of his official car open, for anyone in danger and in need of instant haven. He would take people out of the deportation depots, from the forced marches. In his negotiations with the authorities, German and Hungarian, he would issue threats, insist and demand beyond the extension of his diplomatic rights despite his running battle with his superiors in Bern who forbade his activities, warning him that he was infringing on his diplomatic immunity. Gertrude and Karl Lutz paid no heed, except to what they felt that had to be done, right in front of their eyes � to lend support, help and save lives. They saved over sixty thousand lives.

Lutz went to the US as a teenager and lived in Illinois. He attended college at Central Wesleyan in Warrenton, MO, and at George Washington University in St. Louis, MO. After serving as Chancellor at the Swiss Consulates in Philadelphia and St, Louis and after twenty years in the US, he was assigned as vice-consul to the Swiss Consulate General in Jaffa, Palestine. He arrived in Budapest in 1942 and immediacy started his involvement in helping Jews leave the country.  He helped ten thousand children and young adults to immigrate to Palestine. In charge of the foreign interest sections of countries at war with the Axis, he represented twelve countries including the US.

Upon return to Switzerland he was sharply reprimanded and demoted. For some time he was shunned and for punishment relegated to meaningless jobs in the administrative wilderness. Vindicated in 1957, he retired in 1961. In 1964, he became the first Swiss to be honored as a �Righteous Among the Nations� by Israel. A remarkable man and an altruist in his actions, he and his wife lived in Bern, where he died in 1975, aged eighty.

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Malinovski, Rodian Yacovlevich

Marshall of the Soviet Union

After driving the Germans out of the Balkans, he and Marshall Tolbukhin laid siege to Budapest and conquered it in January 1945. Regarded as one of the top Soviet generals. He Died in Moscow, in 1967, aged sixty-nine.

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Mayer, Saly (1881-1950)

Swiss Representative of the JOINT

South Africa born Mayer, a Swiss lace manufacturer retired early in order to nourish his political ambitions. He headed the Union of Swiss Jewish Communities, the SIG Schweizer Israelitische Gemeinden until around 1940.  He was appointed as Swiss representative of the JOINT. As such, he became an essential - although for Kastner infuriatingly reluctant participant in the negotiations with Becher and with Roswell McClellan, President Roosevelt�s emissary for Refugees. After the war, Mayer continued as a JOINT director for liberated Central Europe. He died at age sixty-eight in 1950.

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McClelland, Roswell D. (1914-1995)

President�s Roosevelt Special War Refugee Board Emissary in

Following his stint as the representative of President Roosevelt's specially created War Refugee Board in Zurich the thirty year-old California born McClelland became an active participant in the Kastner negotiations and met with Becher in Switzerland. Supportive, a tough, smart negotiator and true to his Quaker roots and education of democratic principles with respect and dignity to man. After the war he continued his career in the State Department, becoming a Charge d�Affair in Senegal and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Niger. He died in 1995, aged eighty-one.

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Montello, (Mandel) George

Salvadorian diplomat

A Hungarian-Romanian Jew by the name of Mandel, who settled in Switzerland before the war, and in the course of his business activities changed his name to Montello, joined the Salvadorian embassy in Bern and in 1944 induced and arranged with the Salvadorian government the issuance of citizenship certificates for Hungarian Jews. His financial aid and most importantly the large volume of life-saving documents issued by his government created the largest Salvadorian community in Budapest. The government of Salvador withstanding pressures from the Germans became one of the torch bearers in the annals of human rescue during 1944-45 in Central Europe.

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Moyne, Lord (1880-1044)

British Minister Resident in Egypt

Scion of the Guinness Brewery fortune and close to Churchill. Lord Moyne as the British Minister Resident in Egypt during World War II was considered responsible for the relentless blockage of illegal Jewish immigrant ships to the shores of Palestine and a supporter of the 1939 restrictive White Paper.  He looked favorably on the suggestion of sending them to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. He was against the formation of distinct Jewish units in the British Eighth Army. He met with Brand during the latter�s stay in Cairo and did not object in principle to Brand�s return to Eichmann. 

In November 1944, Lord Moyne and his driver were gunned down on a Cairo street by two LEHI assassins, sanctioned by the LEHI commanders headed by Yitzhak Shamir. The Yishuv and its Haganah leadership, vehemently opposed the deed, and opened the so called �hunting season,� a period of cooperation with the British Mandate police, searching out and denouncing extreme right-wing LEHI and IRGUN underground members to the police. The two assassins, Bet-Zuri and Hakim were immediately apprehended, tried, sentenced and hanged in Cairo. Lord Moyne was sixty-four at his death.

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Musy, Beno�t (1917-1956)

Son of Jean-Marie Musy, a former president of Switzerland who accompanied his father during the closing days of the war and drove him to Himmler�s headquarters, through over nine hundred kilometers of war ravaged landscape each way, subject to attacks from the air and from the ground. Their objective was to negotiate for the release of twelve hundred Jews to Switzerland.  Beno�t Musy was a military and civilian pilot, a Moto-Guzzi champion motorcycle racer as well as a champion race driver with his Maseratis, winning many major car races on Europe�s race courses.  In 1956, his racer crashed due to a malfunction, killing Beno�t Musy at age thirty-nine.


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Musy, Jean-Marie (1876 � 1952)

Former President of Switzerland

A Swiss-French Catholic politician and lawyer recruited by the Sternbuch�s for his acquaintanceship with Himmler and some of the Nazi hierarchy from their get-togethers as European rightists. He published Fascist papers and magazines in Switzerland. He was asked to obtain the release of a train with orthodox Jews against a five million dollar payment, to match Kastner�s successful release of the trains from Bergen-Belsen. Musy traveled numerous times to Himmler and indeed succeeded to release twelve hundred yeshiva students, rabbis and their families.

Many years later when his grandson was asked as to what motivated Musy to act on behalf of Jews with his former cronies in Germany? No clear cut answer was available. The option could have been Compassion, although Musy had no history of any sort of activity on behalf of refugees or Jews; it could have been Money � no record exists whether Himmler indeed received the five million dollars, or how much of it. The answer may lie strictly between Sternbuch and Musy. Or, it could have been a Religious awakening, since Musy strongly adhered to his Christian beliefs. Musy died in 1952, in his birthplace Albeauve in Gruy�re, aged seventy-six.


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Mufti of Jerusalem (1893 � 1974)

Haj Amin Al Husseini was appointed Mufti, and then designated the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by Sir Herbert Samuel, the first Jewish British High Commissioner of Palestine in 1920. He became the leader of the Palestinian Arab community, wielding wide-spread influence in the region. A national extremist, he instigated the early terror attacks on Jews until in 1936 he was banned from Palestine. In 1943, from his exile in Rome, he urged the Hungarian government to stop immigration of Jews to Palestine through Romania and Black Sea ports and rather deport them to Poland. He became a regular in Hitler�s court, where he tirelessly urged the annihilation of the �Jewish Scourge.� A personal friend and advisor to Eichmann he urged him on to greater effort of eliminating Jews. He organized Bosnian Moslems into two SS divisions, known for their ferocity and brutality against Jews and other non-Moslem minorities in Yugoslavia. He petitioned Hitler for two more additional divisions which he envisioned would follow Rommel upon the conquest of Palestine by the Germans. His importance and influence waned after the defeat of the Arab armies by Israel in 1948. He died in Cairo in 1974, aged eighty-one.


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Nowak, Franz

SS Hauptsturmfuehrer � Captain

Austrian, son of a locomotive driver. Early member of the Hitler Youth and Nazi party. Nowak was Eichmann�s railroad expert. Ingenious in routing trains and obtaining and exchanging cars, he contributed to the rapid deportations to Auschwitz at a rate of twelve thousand per day in Hungary, finishing the circle of the annihilation process � apprehension, deportation, transportation. Arrested after the war at age thirty-two, he was in and out of court, resulting in a seven year prison sentence.


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The term PALESTINIANS refers to the Jewish population of Israel during the pre-state period. It does not refer to today�s Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestine was the geographical designation of the land since the start of Jewish settlements during the Turkish rule and the subsequent British Mandate. The self-governing body of the Yishuv, the Jewish population of Palestine, was the Jewish Agency for Palestine. The tens of thousands of Jewish volunteers from Palestine to the British armed forces during WW II, including the members of the Jewish Brigade were designated as the Palestinians as were bearers of British Mandate issued passports.


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Palgi, Joel (Nussbecher)

One of the Three Parachutists

Joel Palgi Hebrew sized his name to Palgi in Palestine. An erstwhile parachutist and the only survivor of the original three sent to Hungary in 1944. Survived the war in Hungary and returned to Palestine. With the establishment of El Al, the national airline of Israel in tandem with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Palgi became a vice president of Operations, then took charge of its contract division that operated Near East Airlines which specialized in retrieving Jewish immigrants from Arab countries to Israel. He ended his career as an executive of Kupat Cholim of the Histadrut, the labor union�s medical health insurance services. During one of his periodic lecture tours, Kolozsv�r-born Palgi suffered a fatal heart attack.


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Perlasca, Giorgio �Jorge�(1910-1992)

He left Budapest and returned to Padova after the war, finding himself in dire financial straits. He and his friend Sans-Briz, the former Spanish ambassador became estranged, largely because the latter wanted to garner the post-war accolades, due to Perlasca. Perlasca still did not realize the depth of his heroic actions, to his mind �he did what every decent human being would do.� Despite Perlasca�s modesty it was eventually determined that Perlasca saved over five thousand people with his direct actions. Italy, his homeland and Hungary awarded him their highest decorations. Israel declared him �The Righteous among the Nations� and awarded him citizenship. Perlasca kept to his modest ways, avoiding the limelight. He passed away in 1992 in his home town Padova, Italy, at age eighty-two.


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Rajniss, Ferenc (1893 -1946)

Publisher and editor of the vitriolic anti-Semitic paper Magyar Fut�r and minister of Religion and Education in the Sz�lasi�s Arrow-Cross government.  Tried after the war and executed in 1946, aged fifty-three.


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Rescue Committee in Budapest

Va�ada l�Ezra Ve�Hatsala be�Budapest

Unlike the Judenrat, the Jewish Council which acted as an administrative clearing house for the Germans, the Rescue committee actively opposed German measures and tried to help as many as possible survive or escape. It was originally organized in 1941 as a Zionist mutual assistance organization, to aid and support refuges coming into Hungary from recently German occupied lands in Poland and Slovakia. After the Germans entered Hungary in 1944 its agenda evolved. The Committee collected funds from neutral channels through Switzerland and Turkey, assisted and expedited refugees and escapees from Hungary and elsewhere, supplied documents, hiding place, food, medical care. Special emphasis was on children.  Over fifty children�s homes were run by the Committee, in addition to children homes it supervised, coordinated and monitored run by the IRK and some Protestant churches.  Its young Chalutz section purchased and carried arms for defense against the Arrow-Cross.

The composition and make-up of the Committee reflected the Zionist party affiliations and their strength in percentages. Distribution of documents, passports, immigration certificates as well as the recent space allocation on the Musterzug- strictly followed the jealously guarded party�s percentage quotas.

The members of the Rescue Committee were exempt from wearing the Yellow Star, were allowed to live in private dwellings, could drive and use public transport. They were free to move about the city, and had access to the SS administration. The office of the Committee was originally in the Sip Utca Number 12 Jewish Community building, which also housed the Judenrat. Sometimes, as a result of adverse developing situations it was forced  into ad hoc meetings  in private apartments, such as at the Brand factory, the Biss office/apartment and the IRK house.

Otto Komoly, a civil engineer, with contacts among the Hungarian political, business and cultural elite as well as the ruling echelon, reaching all the way to the Regent Horthy whom he knew personally was nominated president. He was a centrist. Kastner, a socialist was nominated Vice President., with Brand also a socialist running the field operations. Hansi Brand took care of children services and assisted her husband in early negotiations with Eichmann. Samu Springmann, a jeweler, a socialist was in charge of the courier service, Shulem Offenbach from Poland handled the finances, Zvi Szil�gy, a Zionist-Marxist headed the illegal immigration efforts until arrested and sent to Mauthausen concentration camp, Eugen Frankel of the Orthodox Centrist party with Moshe Krausz of the Orthodox Mizrachi party were in charge of immigration certificates. Andreas Biss was a later member with extensive contacts with the Gestapo; Peretz R�v�sz of the leftist socialists was the head of the armed Chalutz groups and field operatives. 

Also affiliated with the Committee were Dov Weiss, Moshe Rosenberg, Siegfried Roth, Uziel Lichtenberg, Joska Baumer and Fűlop von Freudiger, the Neolog Rabbi of Budapest who fled overnight with his family, without notice, to Romania. Moshe Schweiger, a lawyer from Yugoslavia, was the designated Haganah representative on the Committee, arrested, sent to Mauthausen and eventually freed by Becher as a favor to Kastner according to Becher.


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R�v�sz, Peretz

Escaping the Germans in Slovakia, R�v�sz arrived in Budapest in 1942.  A medical student, a champion runner and a member of He�ha Chalutz, he was a member of a leftist Zionist �back to the land� Kibbutz movement. From early days in Bratislava, his future wife and his brother were part of a newly formed armed underground movement devoted to the rescue of Jews.

He commanded the armed underground in Budapest. He and his teams provided safe houses, established and operated children�s homes, assisted people to flee over the borders down to Romania. A member of the Rescue Committee he also cooperated with the Hungarian underground to combat the common enemy � the Arrow-Cross goons and the Germans. Peretz and his wife Nonika refused to leave Budapest when the opportunity arose with the Musterzug, the �sample� train that ended up in Switzerland. They decided to stay where needed and survived the war in Budapest, displaying uncommon commitment and courage.

After the war Peretz and family arrived in then Palestine and settled in a Kibbutz. The credo of his youth that of a selfless character, deep seated honesty, an Alpine degree of integrity and always ready to embark on missions that would help others and serve his nation was still imbued in him. In his 90�s, Peretz ran a home for mentally-challenged adults, making daily round trips in his car, a distance of close to an hour from his home.


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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 Kolozsv�r 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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Roncalli Angelo Guiseppe (1882�1963)

Archbishop, Vatican Nuncio to Turkey and Greece, Pope John XXIII

From his base in Istanbul during World War II, the Papal Nuncio Roncalli had a personal working relationship with Chayim Barlas, the head of the Jewish Agency office in Istanbul. He appealed to the Turkish government to provide asylum to stranded Jewish refugees from Nazi territories, interceded with King Boris of Bulgaria against the deportations of Jews and aided Archbishop Rotta, then the Nuncio in Sofia in his efforts to save Jews. He protested the deportations of the Greek Jews and had the Pope issue letters and protests to the heads of the affected States to stop any further deportations. Against Vatican policy and orders and in tandem with Barlas and the  Jewish Agency�s efforts he kept appealing to the Turkish government to give asylum to Jews, sent to starving Greek Jews and kept the pressure on the Bulgarian King and his parliament to refuse the German demands for deportations.  In 1958 Archbishop Roncalli became Pope John XXIII. He died in Rome in 1963 at age eighty-one. 


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Rotta. Angelo (1872 -1963)

Archbishop, Papal Nuncio in Budapest

Milan-born and a veteran in extracting Jews from Nazi peril which he practiced in his former posting in Bulgaria, where he solicited the aid of the Pope and issued warnings to the King not to accede to the deportation of his Jewish citizens. Aided by the Nuncio to Turkey and Greece, Archbishop Roncalli, he issued baptismal certificates for protection and safe conduct certificates for travel to Palestine

Assigned to Budapest he became the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in 1944, gathering the neutral countries, the �Seven� � Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the International Red Cross and the Vatican as well as their cooperative officials, such as Karl Lutz, the Swiss Consul;  Friedrich Born, head of the IRK;  Giorgio �Jorge� Perlasca, from the Spanish embassy, Raul Wallenberg, Per Anger, Waldemar Langlet, Carl Danielsson, Lars Berg all from the Swedish embassy; Angel Sanz-Briz, Spanish ambassador; Archbishop Gennaro Verolino, a fellow Vatican diplomat and Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese ambassador.

Rotta, a tireless activist, was set on preventing deportations and abuses of Jews. He issued over fifteen thousand safe conduct documents under the Vatican�s neutrality protection. He made available masses of baptismal certificates, getting into conflict with the local princes of the church who were not eager to participate in this �Save the Jews� project. Aided by Archbishop Verolino, he set up additional Schutzh�user, personally protecting the Safe Houses.  He took people out of Eichmann�s Fussmarsch, removed people from deportation assemblies and consistently and constantly protested as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps to both the German and Hungarian authorities against the persecutions of the Jews.

Recognized as a �Righteous among Nations� Angelo Rotta retired from his diplomatic duties in 1957. He died in Rome in 1965, aged ninety-three.


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Rudolf & Kurt

Kastner and Becher, or Rudolf and Kurt as they sometimes called each other, were thrown together by fate that affected the rest of their lives. In the case of Kastner, it contributed to his demise. In the case of Becher it led to untold prosperity. Kastner, a powerless Jew bargaining for lives; Becher a powerful high ranking SS officer, who had Himmler�s ear. Kastner immediately realized that this presented an entry into the highest Nazi hierarchy and a leverage Jews had never before in dealing with their murderers Thus, Kastner regarded Becher as an irreplaceable asset and a tool to influence Himmler, as he did.  Becher�s game was simpler, more predictable, yet true to his character, that of an opportunist par excellence. The war was coming to a close and he wanted to save his skin. As a high ranking SS officer he needed a post-war insurance policy. He also wanted to amass some wealth while the going was easy.

Trying to save the Hungarian Jews on a day to day basis, Kastner intended to save all the remaining Jews in Europe. He intended to reach Himmler through Becher who was one-person away from Himmler. Kastner always structured his suggestions and demands in a manner that would be acceptable to Himmler and have Becher garner all the credit with his boss. Kastner�s lawyerly-Jewish thinking process emanated from the need to survive. He couched his language for unimaginable demands that went against the grain of the very SS premise, such as releasing Jews, explaining benefits, posing alternatives, presenting worse-case and best-case scenario options. It was entirely strange, yet intriguing to the minds of Becher and Himmler whose rigid, regimented thinking process confined to the narrow Nazi bureaucratic language controlled their discourse and turned it into a monotonous, repetitive cadence, a language of the victors imposing their unchallenged will on others. It lacked imagination, free flight of ideas and finding solutions for dire situations. Rapidly deteriorating conditions suddenly required a survivor�s thinking mode. Kastner saw his plan materialize. Himmler �bought� Becher�s ideas, issued fateful orders such as preserving the Budapest ghetto and its inhabitants, surrendering the concentration camps  without a fight, stopping and disabling the extermination camps and releasing Jews to neutral countries, Switzerland and Sweden.

Kastner and Becher needed each other, each one to achieve his opposite agenda. They used one another, exploited one another and formed an unintended mutual aid society. Interestingly, the closeness was not a closeness of dining or socializing together, there was no time and no need for it. But the closeness allowed Kastner, to barge into Becher�s office or home at all hours of the day and night to ask for instant help and assistance every time Eichmann and the Hungarian Arrow-Cross were going berserk. For Kastner it was an invaluable, irreplaceable recourse. Had there not been a Becher, there would not have been anything from keeping Eichmann from running amuck and for the Hungarians following suit within minutes. 

Becher respected Kastner; he sometimes unconsciously assumed his thinking structure. Becher caught himself in a self-analysis when towards the end of the war, he Becher, Kastner and Krumey visited concentration camps, ordering the commanders to surrender the camps without a fight. Mauthausen was a camp Becher planned to visit in person in his new capacity of commissioner of all concentration camps in the Reich. Kaltenbrunner, Becher�s arch enemy gave orders to blow up the camp and kill all the inmates. Becher countermanded his orders but met resistance from the camp commander. He went to Kaltenbrunner's headquarters in Linz. Some colleagues were placing bets that he wouldn�t come out alive. He did and succeeded in rescinding the order. Analyzing what he just did, Becher sat down in after-shock, trying to figure out what he just did. It went against every grain in Becher�s body. This was an operation in which he endangered his person, for no benefit at all. This is what a Kastner would have done. Have I acted Kastner-like? It had suddenly occurred to him.  �Hat der mich angesteckt?� he mulled. �Has he contaminated me? Am acting like him? This is not like me. Kastner has gotten into my subconscious, admittedly, it feels good after having achieved this, but I will never take this kind of risk again, what did it do for Kurt Becher?� He kept asking himself.

Both were pretty close in age, Kastner was Becher�s senior by three years, Becher born in 1909, Kastner in 1906. In 1944, at the height of their activity, they were thirty-five and thirty-eight respectively.

It is interesting to note that Kastner and his associates in Switzerland, Saly Mayer and company, kept promising payment, yet payments never materialized, but Becher kept delivering on the unfulfilled promises. Of course he never gave up on collecting an IOU after the war, it was his investment. Thus, in reality, Becher extended credit to Kastner and the millions of Swiss Franc and American dollars remained in the realm of talk.

After the war, Becher was languishing in Nuremberg prison for over a year; Kastner came to visit him. Kastner�s memory could not ignore the Ghetto, Bratislava, Mauthausen, the surrender of the camps, and the stoppage of the killings towards the end of the war and dozens of other helpful incidents. Kastner was grateful for Becher�s crucial help in time of need when there was literally no one to turn to. �Once caught in a situation of this kind, one realizes the depth and the meaning of help,� Kastner said. He came to express his thanks. It was the way he was brought up. Becher helped him save lives, by the many thousands. He wanted to show that a Jew does forget neither the bad nor the good. After Kastner issued the paper that freed Becher, they never saw each other again, did not correspond, no dealings ensued between them, no monies changed hands. Becher went to Germany to become a wealthy man and a pillar of his community, Kastner went to Israel to have his life ended prematurely and be maligned ever since.

Had they never met, many people and their successive generations would not exist today. A more challenging question is, had they met years earlier, would it have made an even bigger difference? The answer is No. Cooperation such as theirs could only succeed if enveloped in a set of circumstances that provide the incentive and the will by the powerful to accommodate. Where Rudolf and Kurt excelled was that Kastner read the �circumstance� and derived the opportunity, Becher listened, quickly understood  and ran with the ball to his nearest goal post, called Himmler and scored.


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Shin-Bet / Shabak

Is an acronym for Sherut Bitachon Klali, Israel�s internal security apparatus and counter-intelligence service, part of the three main intelligence services of Israel, the Aman of the military and the Monad, responsible for foreign intelligence activities.


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Schindler, Oskar (1909-1975)

Born to a Catholic family in the Sudeten part of Czech Republic. Worked as a salesman. Endowed with very persuasive talents, which he successfully used later in his rescue efforts. Worked for the Abwehr and contributed to its preparation of the attack on Poland. Joined the Nazi party. In Cracow took over an enamel factory and employed and protected Jewish workers. Declared even unskilled laborers as essential to the war effort and warned that their removal would seriously hamper his output. His involvement in saving Jews deepened after he witnessed brutal evacuations and deportations in the Cracow ghetto. Arrested a number of times, but always released soon afterwards. 

He befriended Gizi Fleischmann in Bratislava. He marveled at Fleischmann�s aplomb in dealing with the Nazis. Met Kastner first on his early trip to Budapest, prior to the German occupation, when Kastner and the Rescue Committee were busy aiding refugees from Slovakia and Poland. Already then, Kastner discussed with Schindler the establishment of courier routes and the expediting of mail between Turkey, Budapest, Switzerland, and the concentration camps in Poland. Schindler decided to help, this brought about additional visits by Schindler to Budapest and to Kastner.  Schindler delivered information on the camps and exchanged intelligence and was amazed at the high quality information Kastner obtained. They kept meeting after the German take-over, exploring Schindler�s idea of opening factories in Budapest as he has done in Cracow with the objective of employing Jews and taking them off the deportation lists. 

�Der Mann ist unerschrocken,� Schindler said about Kastner, ��he is absolutely intrepid, he is the coolest, calmest, smartest individual I have ever met, yet he is totally reckless with his own safety. This man is custom fitted for the job he does.� Kastner and Schindler hit it off, liked each other, constantly hatched ways and means to get relief to the ones in need and plot  schemes on saving lives.

As the Red Army approached Auschwitz near Cracow, Schindler persuaded the local Gestapo and SS authorities for permission to move his factories to the Sudeten area in Western Czechoslovakia, which he did. In this operation he saved over a thousand of his workers. Schindler was a practical man yet increasingly took on ever growing risks in saving Jews.

After the war, Schindler engaged in various commercial enterprises in Germany and Argentina which all ended in bankruptcy. At age sixty-six, in 1975, Schindler died in Germany. He was buried at the Catholic Cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel.


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Skorzeny, Otto  (1908-1975)

SS Commando Obersturmbannfuehrer - Lt. Colonel

Austrian. Trained as a civil engineer, Skorzeny, an imposing six foot, four inch giant with a dueling scar running down his cheek, joined the Nazi party and the Storm-troopers in 1931. He fought in Russia in the Wafer-SS and was cited for bravery numerous times and awarded Germany�s highest awards personally by Hitler. He started a commando unit for special services. In 1943, landing with gliders, he freed an imprisoned Mussolini from a mountaintop, an operation that became legend. He planned an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Tito in Yugoslavia. In 1944, he came to Budapest, kidnapped Horthy Jr. in order to force his father to resign, which the latter did. Interned at war�s end by the Allies, he escaped and went to Spain, where he resumed his pre-war occupation as an engineer and became a wealthy man. Skorzeny died of cancer in 1975 in Madrid, aged sixty-seven.


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Sternbuch, Rabbi Issac and Rachel, Montreux


Emigrating from Eastern Europe before the war, the Sternbuchs settled in Switzerland, first in St. Gallen then they moved to Montreux on Lac Leman and became Swiss citizens. Isaac Sternbuch was a businessman and a prominent orthodox rabbi, a leader in the ultra-orthodox Agudat-Israel party. His wife Recha, an energetic activisit, too worked tirelessly at saving religious Jews and scholars to assure a continuum of Torah studies in view of the extermination. The couple engaged in the rescue of rabbis and yeshiva students, supporting them by sending relief packages as well as rescue operations. They founded the Vaa�d Le�hatsala � a rescue committee for the orthodox and became the Swiss representatives of �The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada.�

With these imposing credentials and generous funding, they decided to emulate and compete with the other Rescue Committee from Budapest and with secular Kastner and his Swiss contact Saly Mayer. Not to be outdone they solicited the help of a former Swiss president, Jean-Marie Musy to approach his old acquaintance Himmler and release a parallel train to the Musterzug, with orthodox passengers. The allocated budget was five million dollars and indeed a short time after, a train bearing twelve hundred rabbis, yeshiva students and their families, selected for their orthodoxy arrived in Switzerland. The logistics of the release of the train and its expedition to Switzerland were this time handled by SS-Brigadefuehrer Walter Schellenberg, head of SS Foreign Intelligence and who was eager to replace Becher as the one handling foreign SS affairs.

This free-lance operation was sprung as a total surprise on Kastner and Becher who were in the midst of delicate talks with Himmler. Suddenly, all Himmler wanted to know, was who of these Jewish groups is more important, the Orthodox Rabbi Union with all the money up front or the JOINT with Kastner and Saly Mayer and empty promises. Castigating Becher as to why he did not get latched on to it sooner and that the time may have come to chose among the Jews.  For a moment it looked as if Becher was in jeopardy, Kastner was tearing his hair out. It caused delays to the ongoing negotiations. Becher felt that the rug was pulled from under him. Becher reproached Kastner for letting him down in front of his boss; he refused to believe that Kastner knew nothing about this Musy operation. Himmler watched money thrown at him, while Kastner�s party kept making promises seemingly unable to come up with the cash. Himmler recognized an opportunity of playing one group off against the other. The Musy surprise almost turned into a catastrophe.

Kastner suggested to Sternbuch to join forces, saying how essential it is to show Himmler a united Jewish front. The Sternbuch�s however smelled victory for their cause, and refused to entertain the offer.


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Szalai, Pal (1915-1994)

High Hungarian Police and Arrow Cross Official

Through a friend, a Hungarian employee of the Swedish embassy, Szalai befriended Raoul Wallenberg and provided him with crucial German documents and advance information of German and Hungarian plans. He alerted Wallenberg to Eichmann�s plan of massacring the Ghetto�s inhabitants.  Wallenberg immediately sent a note through Szalai to General Schmiedhuber, commander of SS forces in beleaguered Budapest informing him that he would bear personal responsibility because the Ghetto is in his area of jurisdiction and under his command and that he would be hanged as a war criminal should harm come to the Ghetto. Eichmann�s plan was averted in the last minute. Szalai, although an ardent Arrow-Cross member, did not subscribe to the brutal street behavior of his party. His post-war trial revealed his close cooperation with Wallenberg and his aid and clandestine support he rendered to Jewish operatives. Miksa Domonkos, the early Ghetto commander, among others testified on his behalf. He was found not guilty, almost alone among former high ranking Arrow-Cross and police officials and released. In 1956 he left Hungary and settled in New Jersey and later California, where he changed his name to Paul Sterling. He died in Los Angeles in 1994, aged seventy-nine.


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Sz�lasi, Ferenc (1897-1946)

Hungarian Arrow-Cross Prime Minister and Head of State

Of mixed Armenian, German, Hungarian and Slovak ancestry, Sz�lasi joined the army and became a Major on the General Staff. A fanatical right-wing Hungarian patriot, he joined the Nazi party and eventually founded the Arrow-Cross party as a coalition of a number of anti-Semitic extreme right-wing Nazi parties. After many unsuccessful attempts to gain power, it was not until the Germans forced Horthy from power in 1944 and made Sz�lasi Premier and head of State.  Oddly, he was not as vehement an anti-Semite as his followers. He objected to the German deportations of Hungarian Jews which resulted in running disputes with his German patrons. As an alternative, he suggested to relocate the Jews to a Jewish state, to be established in Central Asia, very much along the general idea of the establishment of Israel. Despite the overwhelming onslaught of the Soviets, he ordered resistance to his remaining troops. He ended his short but bloody reign on 4 April when he finally fled Budapest to Austria where he was captured by US forces and extradited to Hungary. Tried as a war criminal, he was executed in Budapest, aged forty-nine.


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Schellenberg, Walter  (1910-1952)

SS-Brigadefuehrer  -  Major General

Head of the German foreign military intelligence, successor to the Wehrmacht�s Abwehr. Unsuccessfully targeted the Rote Kapelle, the Red Band, the incredibly successful premier Soviet spy group, run by Tepper, a Russian Jew in Switzerland who later settled in Israel and whom Schellenberg regarded as his greatest nemesis. Schellenberg and his rival Kaltenbrunner where the main bookends under Himmler�s senior SS command structure. Schellenberg�s loyalty went to Himmler, Kaltenbrunner�s went to Hitler. Yet both disliked Becher. Schellenberg, fluent in English and French and in charge of foreign intelligence, coveted Becher�s assignments. He felt that Becher was transgressing on his territory. Kaltenbrunner simply did not trust Becher.

In a Nuremberg series of follow-up trial, Schellenberg was sentenced to six years in prison. Upon release in 1950 he became an adviser to the British Secret Service.  In 1952, he succumbed to cancer and died in Turin, Italy, aged forty-two.


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Tamir, Shmuel (Katzenelson) (1923-1987)

Defense counsel at the Malkiel Gruenwald libel trial. A commander in the IRGUN and head of intelligence for the Jerusalem district, he was arrested by the British and deported to Kenya where he spent a little over a year. After his performance in Kastner�s libel trial he became Minister of Justice in the new Begin Government. Later, as a member of the Knesset he recanted of things he said about Kastner. Tamir died in Jerusalem in 1987, aged sixty-four.


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Teitelbaum, Yoel (1905-1997)

The Rabbi of Satmar

The ultra-religious Rebbe of Satmar, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of the Romanian city of Satu-Mare, boarded the Musterzug saving himself and his clan in 1944. The rabbi did not mind that the train�s organizers, headed by Kastner were secular Jews, but more so, were also dedicated Zionists, whereas he, the rabbi and his followers were rabid anti-Zionist who through their deep religious belief argued that the land of Israel can only be redeemed with the coming of the Messiah and any attempts to do so before, by force and any other means was prohibited and was to be boycotted. The organizers and the people who made the final passenger allocation lists, did not consider the Satmar animosity towards Zionism as a reason to deny space to the group. This amply demonstrated that the criteria of selection was to put Jews on the train, political and religious convictions notwithstanding. It preempted the Sternbuch argument of the urgent need of organizing their �own� train of religious Jews, because secular leaders would discriminate against the orthodox in the seat allocations. The Satmars on the train, not merely orthodox but anti-Zionists, puts this argument to naught.

After the war, but before the founding of the State of Israel, Teitelbaum lived for a year in Jerusalem. He immigrated to the US to join his thousands of followers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He moved some of his followers out of New York City to Monroe where he built a new town for his disciples. He died in 1997, aged ninety-two and was buried in Kiryas-Yoel, the town he founded and was named for him.


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The Players

It should be observed that the players in this drama, both the �good� and the �bad,� the Germans, the Jews, the Americans, the Swiss and the Swedes, were mostly  contemporaries, most born between 1906-1910 and in their mid-thirties in 1944. They were proceeding with their monumental tasks and decisions in unchartered waters and unprecedented situations on the premise of �on the job training� anathema to European culture.


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Tolbukhin, Fyodor Ivanovoch (1894-1949) 

Marshall of the Soviet Union

One of the finest Russian officers, beloved by his men and fellow officers for his meticulousness, and care in avoiding casualties, a rare trait among Russian generals. Laid siege to Budapest with Malinovski. Died in 1949 at fifty-five and was interned in the Kremlin wall.


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Veesenmayer, Edmund (1904-1977)

Ambassador to Hungary, SS Brigadefuehrer � Major General

Academic, teaching at various schools and an economic expert. Joined the Ribbentrop�s Foreign Office serving in Yugoslavia and Slovakia. Appointed with special Reich authority aimed at annihilating the Hungarian Jewry and as ambassador to Horthy�s government and the successive Arrow-Cross government. Sentenced in 1949 to twenty years in prison.  Released in 1951. Died in East Germany in 1977, aged seventy-three.


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Wallenberg, Raoul (1912 � 19- -?)

Raoul Wallenberg traveled to Budapest under diplomatic cover on a mission to save Jews. A scion of one of the prominent families and business leaders of Sweden. He had been trained as an architect at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  He worked in banking in South Africa and Palestine.

Coming to Budapest, he plunged head on into his mission of saving Jews persecuted by the Arrow-Cross and the Nazis. He became a formidable force combating these two regimes with exceptional results. He joined the other neutral diplomatic embassies in Budapest by supporting Schutzh�user, issuing documents and inviting the Jewish underground Chalutzim into his embassy to prepare the documents themselves due to the sheer volume which he could not handle. His exploits are legendary. He worked closely with Kastner and the Rescue Committee, with Peretz R�v�sz and his team as well as with Giorgio Perlasca, Karl Lutz, Friedrich Born, de Sousa-Mendes, Sans-Briz and Archbishop Rotta. He performed daring feats with a dedication and fervor that knew no bounds. He hated totalitarism; it offended his instilled democratic principles. After the Soviet conquest of Budapest he continued to negotiate with the Russians and the Communist puppet government that succeeded the Arrow-Cross. When last seen accompanied by NKVD agents he said that he ��is on the way to Marshal Malinowski�s headquarters in Debrecen and does not know whether he is traveling as a guest or a prisoner.� This was the last anyone saw of Wallenberg. Rumors and statements by the Soviets that he died in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow of a heart attack in 1957 cannot be verified. His association with the WRB, the American Refugee organization might have made him suspect in the eyes of the Russians who accused him of espionage. The search for Wallenberg and the quest for knowledge of precisely what happened to him continues to this day.  In 1948, Wallenberg was thirty-six years old.


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Weiss, Manfred

Hungarian Industrialist

A Polish-born Jew who immigrated to Hungary after World War I and established a sprawling industrial, commercial and banking empire named Csepel. The enterprise encompassed over eighty companies engaged in the manufacture of steel, arms, automotive, aircraft, building materials, chemicals, lumber, shipping, and trading with offices in major European capitals.

The Weiss family with close to eighty members including industry leaders such as Chorin, Mautner, Billitz and others, were the dominant industrial-business and banking family in Hungary, compared to the Rockefeller family in the United States. With one swoop and stroke of a pen, Becher �acquired� the entire empire for the SS Economic entity in exchange for letting the family members leave Hungary for Switzerland and Portugal.

Becher used the same method in �acquiring� other key industries. The huge textile empire owned by Budai Leo Goldberger and the Tungsram industries, one of Europe�s leading electrical supplies and bulb manufacturers owned by Leopold Ashner. Simple blackmail and the offer of sparing lives were the currency Becher used to buy up the industrial patrimony of Hungary after having plundered the agricultural sector, Hungary�s traditional core of business.

The Becher strategy was to head off confiscations by the Hungarians who prepared to implement their anti-Jewish laws of taking over Jewish owned businesses. As a German property, �legally� acquired, the Hungarians were preempted from taking over these huge enterprises.

It seemed that all the top industries were owned by Jews who immigrated into Hungary from the other side of the Carpathian Mountains, mostly from Poland. Hungary was a feudal society, ruled by large landowners of the local aristocracy. They disdained of anything involving commerce trading and bartering.

When the Jewish immigrants, looking for opportunities arrived, they started filling the economic void and industrializing the country.


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Weisz, Dezs�, David

Son of a prominent Budapest reform rabbi. Studied in Vienna. A passionate right-wing pro-Begin Zionist. A polished product of European education, of  high intelligence and diplomatic skills he successfully negotiated stalled talks with the Swiss authorities preventing the deportation of the Bergen-Belsen group, to which he belonged, to Africa instead of to the British Mandate Palestine.   


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Winkelmann, Otto (1903-1976)

SS  Obergruppenfuehrer � General

Former lawyer assigned by Himmler as his personal delegate in Hungary with the special rank of High SS and Police Leader in charge of all SS units in Hungary. As such he bears culpability to all SS actions in Hungary, including the Eichmann deportation and all anti-Jewish measures and wealth confiscations. Tried after the war, he submitted a deposition as a prosecution witness. Spent less than four years in prison, joined the Kiel city council, became president of the Police Association, collected his General�s pension. Died in Germany in 1979 at age seventy-six.


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Wisliceny, Dieter (1911-1948)

SS Hauptsturmbannfuehrer � Major

At one time Eichmann�s superior and himself regarded as a �Jewish� expert.  Wisliceny and Brunner managed the annihilation of the Jews of Greece, Slovakia, and Hungary. Wisliceny introduced the Yellow Star and supervised the ghettoization of the Jewish population in preparation to deportations to Auschwitz. Apprehended in the Austrian Salzkammergut by the Allies, he testified in the Nuremberg trials and was delivered to Czechoslovakia where he stood trial in Bratislava, sentenced to death and hanged at age thirty-six.


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WRB - War Refugee Board

On January 22, 1944, President Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board designed to assist refugees and help save European Jewry. Henry Morgenthau Jr., the Secretary of the Treasury urged Roosevelt to establish the WRB against the objections of the State Department and a luke-warm Congress, many of whose members objected to an influx of Jewish refugees into the United States. Roosevelt charged the Board with taking every measure to rescue victims of oppression and people in imminent danger of death. John Pehle, the head of Foreign Funds Controls in the Treasury Department became executive director. A small dedicated number of WRB staff stationed in Europe was to find safe havens, furnish relief supplies and evacuate Jews from enemy territory. The WRB was promised the authority to elicit cooperation from all government agencies but in reality only the Treasury helped. The Board had a staff of only thirty and an administrative budget of one million dollars collecting funds for its operation from the JOINT and a host of other Jewish organizations, reaching almost seventeen million dollars. One of the first objectives of the WRB was the rescue of the Hungarian Jewry in 1944. The WRB worked with Raoul Wallenberg and helped fund his operations. The Board brought refugees to Oswego in New York, designated a safe haven. Its demand for more such havens was never approved.  At war�s end, the Board could point to almost a quarter million lives saved, Jews and non Jews. Summarizing the WRB work after the war, John W. Pehle its director, said that the entire WRB endeavor was at the end, too little, too late. 


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The word means �settlement� in Hebrew. The pre-state of Israel Jewish population in Palestine, numbering about six hundred thousand at the beginning of WW II, was generally referred to as the Yishuv.


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Ziereis, Franz (1905-1945)

Standartenfuehrer - Colonel

Munich-born Ziereis worked as a messenger and laborer. He joined the German Army in 1924, served twelve years in the Reichswehr and was discharged as a sergeant. Joining the SS in early 1939 he was assigned to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp as commandant, then promoted to colonel as commandant of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp complex. Had his eleven year-old son play live target practice, shooting prisoners from his front porch. Fleeing the camp in 1945 as the Allies approached, he hid in his hunting lodge up in the Austrian mountains, was shot as he fled by American soldiers dying in the Mauthausen-Gusen hospital in 1945, aged forty. Former prisoners hung his corpse on the fence of the Gusen camp.

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