Kasztner Train

Kasztner Train
   In his mistaken belief that the Germans had permitted the ransoming of Slovakia’s Jews for large sums of money, Rudolf Kasztner, a member of the Relief and Rescue Committee of Budapest, attempted a similar negotiation with the Germans as the deportations of Jews to the death camps began in 1944. After meeting with Adolf Eichmann and agreeing to pay a fee of $1,000 per person, a train with 1,684 Jews left Hungary in the summer of 1944, supposedly bound for Spain or Switzerland.
   Instead, the train went to Bergen-Belsen, where the passengers were detained. The passengers included members of Kasztner’s family as well as some of Budapest’s more prominent Jews. Kasztner believed that this would be the first of many trains that would rescue the Jews of Hungary from the death camps. But subsequent trains filled with Jews did not follow, and Kasztner was accused of giving preference to his family and friends. Subsequently, he would also be accused of creating the illusion of rescue by promoting the idea that the trains would take the Jews to safety, instead of warning them of the deportations to Auschwitz. In a subsequent trial in Israel, Kasztner stood accused of making the roundup of the Jews of Hungary that much easier for Eichmann.
   In July 1944, Heinrich Himmler gave permission for the Schutzstaffel (SS) to further negotiate with Kasztner, and subsequently Sally Mayer, a representative of the American Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief organization, met with the SS at a location near the Swiss border. The meeting resulted in a halt to the deportations of the Jews of Budapest in August 1944, and the release of 318 Jews from the Kasztner train, who were subsequently allowed to enter Switzerland. In December, the balance of the “Kasztner train” Jews detained at Bergen-Belsen were set free and also allowed to enter the Swiss state. Shortly thereafter, the negotiations came to a halt and the deportations from Budapest continued. The Kasztner episode was a momentary interruption in a process that had the highest priority among the planners of the Final Solution.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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