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Kasztner's Train: The True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaust
Synopses & Reviews
A tale of rescue as remarkable as Wallenberg or Schindler An important piece of forgotten history.”-Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World
The heroic story of Rezsö Kasztner, the Hungarian Oskar Schindler” who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, only to be accused of collaboration and assassinated in I srael twelve years after World War II ended. Based on interviews with those who were on the train as well as documents and correspondence not previously published, Anna Porter tells the dramatic, full story of one of the heroes of the twentieth century.
Anna Porter was born in Hungary and personally experienced the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. A celebrated former publisher in Canada, she is the author of five previous books, including The Storyteller, a memoir of her family through seven centuries of Hungarian history. She lives in Toronto.
Oscar Schindlers and Raoul Wallenbergs efforts to save people from Nazi extinction are legendary; Kasztner's, by contrast, are practically unknown, even though he may have been the greatest rescuer of Jews during World War II. He was also the most controversial, and that, along with the relative lack of focus on events in Hungary toward the end of the war, has no doubt led to his anonymity. Now, with the publication of Anna Porters biography, Kasztners achievements are in full view.
When the German army invaded its ally Hungary in March 1944, followed soon after by Adolf Eichmann and his SS, Rezso Kasztner and a small group of Zionist activists stood in the way of mass deportations. They had met the well-informed Schindler, providing him with funds for food and clothing, and had been involved in previous efforts to rescue Jews from Slovakia and Poland. Now, in meeting after meeting with Eichmann and other SS officers, Kasztner negotiated for freedom, exploiting the Nazi weaknesses of greed and need—blood for goods,” as the Nazis called it—organizing a train out of Hungary for almost 2,000 Jews while several thousand more were protected in work camps in Austria. Inevitably he saved some and not others. After testifying at the Nuremberg trials, Kasztner emigrated to Israel where, in 1956, he was stunningly convicted of collaborating with the Nazis more than a decade before. As he awaited the appeal that would ultimately exonerate him, he was assassinated by right-wing activists in Tel Aviv on March 4, 1957.
Based on interviews with those who were on the train and with family members of those denied a place on it, as well as documents and correspondence not previously published, Anna Porter tells the full story of one of the heroes of the twentieth century.
[Anna Porter] vividly brings to life those frenetic months in Budapest before the Nazi collapse. Although she shows Kasztner with all his weaknesses and flaws—egotistical, vain, ambitious and unfaithful to his wife—she concludes that he was indeed heroic in risking his own life daily and saving thousands of Jews. Yad Vashem, releasing the results of its study of Kasztner's voluminous documents, notes and correspondence, recently came to the same conclusion. There was no man in the history of the Holocaust who saved more Jews and was subjected to more injustice than Kasztner, said Yad Vashem chairman Joseph Lapid, himself a survivor from Hungary, in July 2007, releasing the conclusions of Yad Vashem's research on Kasztner's papers. This is an opportunity to do justice to a man who was misrepresented and was a victim of a vicious attack that led to his death, he added, calling Kasztner one of the great heroes of the Holocaust.”—Adam Fuerstenberg, The Forward
A tale of rescue as remarkable as Wallenberg or Schindler. Kudos to Anna Porter for recovering such an important piece of forgotten history, with, at its heart, a colorful and irresistible hero—and an ending that will break your heart.”—Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World
The remarkable achievement of Kasztners Train is to bring to life a tale of breathtaking chutzpah, the gravest personal risk, dark intrigue, human frailty, and devastating clashes of personality. Animated by her understanding of the Hungarian context, Anna Porter relays her story with, as was said of the Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, impeccable moral taste.” —Michael R. Marrus, professor emeritus of Holocaust Studies, University of Toronto
Glowing chronicle of an unheralded, Schindler-esque figure who saved Hungarian-Jewish lives during World War II. As the German army marched on Budapest in 1944, the fate of the city's Jewish population lay in the hands of bold, immeasurably brave Rezso Kasztner. Hungarian-born Canadian citizen Porter gives an unashamedly laudatory account of Kasztner's actions, though she also extensively covers the controversy that dogged him until his final days. The book's central subject is the monumental task Kasztner assumed during the war as he battled with the German authorities to free as many Hungarian-born Jewish citizens as possible. His dealings with SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann are retold in meticulous detail. Porter effectively conjures dark, smoky offices hosting intense negotiations and the palpable, yet always carefully hidden terror felt by Kasztner as he battled with one of Hitler's most overbearing, deeply unpleasant henchmen. The author frequently departs from Kasztner's tale to recite events happening elsewhere in Europe, offering disquieting details of the conditions in Auschwitz that would be the probable fate of the Jewish citizens he failed to save. Kasztner's achievements were twofold. He got 1,684 Jews onto a train out of Hungary, at a considerable price to the wealthy passengers on board, although Porter points out that the exact amount of money given to the Germans is unknown. Kasztner also kept 20,000 exiled Hungarian Jews alive in Austria, again by forking over a considerable sum. With a hint of exasperation, Porter concludes by examining Kasztner's tribulations in Israel after the war, when he was charged with colluding with the Nazis and failing to warn the majority of Budapest's Jewish population of what awaited them in the camps. Kasztner's assassination shortly after the trial was, for the author, a deeply inglorious end for a man she regards as a hero. A compelling narrative that does great justice to Kasztner's memory.”—Kirkus Reviews
The unknown hero of the title is Rezso Kasztner, a member of the Jewish Rescue Committee in Hungary during World War II. He was able to negotiate a deal with the Nazis, which resulted in Kasztners Train—a train that transported 1,684 Hungarian Jews out of Nazi-controlled Hungary to safety in Switzerland in July 1944. The wealthy Jews of Budapest paid an average of $1,500 for each family member; the poor paid nothing. Kasztner also was able to save 20,000 Hungarian Jews by having them sent to an Austrian labor camp instead of extermination camps. Kasztner moved to Israel after the war, and in 1954 he was accused of being a Nazi collaborator. Kasztner claimed that his dealing with the Nazi officials, including Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, were necessary to save lives. In 1957, he was assassinated by right-wing activists in Tel Aviv. Porter interviewed 75 people and had access to diaries, notes, taped interviews, memoirs, and courtroom testimonies; her book, with three maps and a 16-page black-and-white insert, offers the most complete, fully documented account of this Holocaust story.”—Booklist
“A tale of rescue as remarkable as Wallenberg or Schindler…An important piece of forgotten history.”-Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World
The heroic story of Rezsö Kasztner, the “Hungarian Oskar Schindler” who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, only to be accused of collaboration and assassinated in I srael twelve years after World War II ended. Based on interviews with those who were on the train as well as documents and correspondence not previously published, Anna Porter tells the dramatic, full story of one of the heroes of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Anna Porter was born in Hungary and personally experienced the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. A celebrated former publisher in Canada, she is the author of five previous books, including The Storyteller. She lives in Toronto.
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