Equal justice for all peoples is my main concern, and I approach this subject accordingly. Other reviewers have described the overall contents of this book, and I focus instead on pertinent details in the case of Rudolf Israel Kastner (Kasztner). Owing to the fact that the author is an independent researcher, I examine some of the main primary sources in the latter part of my review.
THE PERKS OF BEING A JEWISH NAZI COLLABORATOR
Collaboration is usually defined as service to the enemy, at the expense of one’s co-nationals, in exchange for favors from the enemy. So what was in it for Kasztner personally? Author Paul Bogdanor answers, „On the contrary, Kasztner’s dependence on SS patronage–his unique negotiating position, his freedom from detention, his privileges such as exemption from the Yellow Star, and his right to arrange the departure of a select group of Jews–required him to undermine resistance plans; and hence Kasztner’s role in the betrayal of Zionist paratroopers from Palestine.” (p. 159).
What about the good that Kasztner did for the Jews, such as the Kasztner Train? Although Bogdanor does not put it in these terms, perhaps Kasztner is best understood as a double agent–an opportunist who played both ends.
KASZTNER DID NOT MERELY HOLD BACK INFORMATION. KASZTNER LIED TO HIS FELLOW JEWS, PURE AND SIMPLE, WITH DEADLY CONSEQUENCES
Part of the Israeli courts’ exculpation of Kasztner involved the argument that Kasztner did not really know what happened to his fellow Hungarian Jews (pp. 279-280), as at Kolozsvar, once they boarded the trains (that went to Auschwitz). Kasztner most certainly knew (pp. 38-40, p. 95, 284, 285). In fact, recently-published documents show that Kasztner plainly DECEIVED the train-goers by telling them that those earlier boarding the trains were alive and well at „Waldsee” (p. 282; Ref. 28 on p. 289), a nonexistent labor camp.
Paul Bogdanor’s statements need to be expanded. Even if Kasztner, and other leaders in the Hungarian JUDENRAT (in addition to some modern, hindsight-thinking Holocaust scholars), believed that Jews could never rescue themselves by fleeing and possibly crossing the border into Romania, this does not excuse Kasztner’s mendacity. The Jews had a „right to know” that they faced almost-certain death by boarding the trains (to Auschwitz), and this „informed consent” would have let THEM decide if they should take their chances by fleeing, hiding, or sneaking into Romania. (Eyewitnesses said that the Romanian border, a few km away from Kolozsvar, can and has in fact been crossed by fugitive Jews: p. 55, 112).
Finally, Bogdanor could have pointed out that Kasztner’s deadly mendacity was hardly unusual. In the German-made Warsaw Ghetto, for example, there were Jewish Gestapo agents that deliberately spread false messages about the benign nature of the „resettlements”, and the regularly-departing trains only taking the Jews to labor camps. See my detailed review of: To Live With Honor, to Die With Honor.
KASZTNER TRIED TO COVER UP HIS TRACKS BY DEFENDING NAZI GERMAN CRIMINALS
At the Nuremberg trials, Kasztner testified on behalf of Kurt Becher (who was freed), Hermann Krumey, Dieter Wisliceny, and Hans Juttner. This seemingly-odd behavior has a rather prosaic explanation identified by Bogdanor, „Kasztner’s actions in Nuremberg were not the deeds of a person afflicted with megalomania or cognitive dissonance; they were not the deeds of a loyal and obedient service of the Jewish Agency; they were the deeds of a suspected collaborator seeking to invent a plausible pretext for his dealings with the SS.” (p. 259).
„DO NOT JUDGE” HYPOCRISY REGARDING JEWISH NAZI COLLABORATORS
David Ben Gurion condemned those Jews, who had not gone through the Shoah, and were now passing judgement on the conduct of the JUDENRAT in general and Kasztner in particular. Bogdanor notes the irony as he quips, „Ben-Gurion did not, however, suggest that even HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS had a duty to remain silent. Did they, at least, have a right to evaluate Kasztner’s record?…Ben-Gurion’s argument was in fact thoroughly manipulative: he warned his fellow Jews not to judge Kasztner NEGATIVELY, but displayed no qualms at all when the judgment was POSITIVE.” (pp. 294-295; Emphasis in original.).
[This hypocrisy persists to this very day. Quite a few Jews, 99% of whom had never gone through a brutal war and enemy occupation, presume to pass judgement on Polish conduct towards Jews during WWII. We also have Jews today who, out of the corner of one mouth, put the JUDENRAETE “out of reach” for criticism, but, out of the other corner of their mouth, make all sorts of grandiose pronouncements about alleged Polish complicity in the Holocaust.]
THE SUPREME COURT OF ISRAEL EXONERATED KASZTNER FOR POLITICAL–NOT JUDICIAL–REASONS
The Supreme Court effectively „changed the subject”–from Kasztner’s culpability to his (presumed) victimhood. Bogdanor makes this clear as he comments, „Their task of exonerating Kasztner would have been much more difficult if they had been compelled to address the real issue: his active role in helping to deceive the victims into boarding the trains to Auschwitz…No trace remained of Kasztner’s role in spreading false rumors about Jewish resettlement in ‚Kenyermezo’. In the Supreme Court decision, the allegation raised in the testimony of the Holocaust survivors was all but forgotten.” (p. 288).
Paul Bogdanor then assesses the Supreme Court decision as follows, „Sanitizing Kasztner’s conduct, instead of condemning his crimes, was a way to dampen the controversy and quiet the Israeli public. The alternative–rejected by the Supreme Court–was to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” (p. 288). He adds that, „It is not very pleasant to conclude that the head of the Jewish rescue committee in Hungary was a collaborator in the genocide of his own people. There is, inevitably, a temptation to avert one’s eyes.” (p. 294).
Gur-Arie, H. 2010. History, Law, Narrative: The „Kastner Affair”–Fifty Years Later. DAPIM JOURNAL: STUDIES ON THE SHOAH 24:223-268.
This study, cited by author Paul Bogdanor, was part of a doctoral dissertation that was submitted to the Law faculty at Tel Aviv University. Its main focus is on the legal issues surrounding the conviction and then exculpation of Israel Kastner. Gur-Arie corrects the popular misconception of a flawed guilty District Court verdict „corrected” by the competent not guilty Supreme Court verdict. In fact, when one combines the courts, one finds, relative to Kasztner, three inculpatory judges and three exculpatory judges. (p. 228).
By way of historical background, the Nazis were able to murder over 434,000 Hungarian Jews, at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in only eight weeks (May 15 to July 9, 1944). (p. 224). To accomplish this, Eichmann had only 150 troops and 5,000 Hungarian gendarmes. (p. 232). (It is easy to see why the deception of the Jewish masses was crucial.)
THE SUPREME COURT OF ISRAEL EXCUSES KASTNER ON PLATITUDES. WHY NOT ALL OTHER COLLABORATORS?
Israel’s highest court focused less on Kastner’s actions and more on his presumed motives. We were reminded that things may look different, after the fact, than they did when they were taking place. (p. 251). We heard of the huge power disparity between the conquering power and the accused collaborator. Kastner was even compared to a drowning man clutching at straws. He was painted as a Jewish leader who operated during a complex period, under distress and despair, facing an impossible set of circumstances. (p. 251). What’s more, we must not see black and white, only different shades of gray. (p. 253), and this moreover prevents clear-cut determinations of guilt. (p. 256).
The problem with this is obvious: The all-purpose, canned exculpations, applied to Kastner, could also be said of other accused Nazi collaborators. Yet they don’t go free.
Now consider the court that is the mainstream media. I have never heard Kasztner-style exculpatory platitudes verbalized when Poles are accused of alleged complicity in the Holocaust. There clearly is a double standard. More on this below.
THE ULTRA-NARROW DEFINITION OF A NAZI COLLABORATOR (ONE WHO AGREES WITH NAZI EXTERMINATIONIST GOALS) WOULD ALSO ABSOLVE ACCUSED POLISH COLLABORATORS
At no time did the inculpatory judges ever accuse Kastner of agreement with Eichmann’s objectives of exterminating Hungary’s Jews. Yet, as stressed by Gur-Arie, „Paradoxically, this charge that was never made served as a key component in the Supreme Court majority’s decision to clear Kastner of wrongdoing…In other words, the appellate court did not clear Kastner on the grounds that his behavior did not further the extermination program, but rather because, WHATEVER HE DID, IT HAD NOT BEEN PROVEN THAT HE WISHED THE DEATHS OF HUNGARY’S JEWS.” (pp. 244-245; Emphasis added). „In Kastner’s case, to convict Kastner of abetting the Nazis, the court would have to be convinced that he had intended and wished to exterminate Hungarian Jewry.” (p. 259).
Now consider the following: We have all sorts of Jewish journalists going around accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust. We can also think of neo-Stalinist Jan Grabowski vel Abrahamer and his media-promoted JUDENJAGD (Hunt for the Jews). Lost in all this media circus is the fact that NEVER has it been proved that Poles, who did kill or betray Jews, had been in agreement with the Nazi objectives of destroying Europe’s Jews. Yet–lo and behold–Kastner had been whitewashed based on this very consideration!
CONCLUSION TO THE EXONERATION OF KASTNER
Evidently, we have a Talmudic-style dual morality (dual justice system) in force. There is one standard that is favorable to Jews accused of Nazi collaboration, and another standard that is unfavorable to non-Jews accused of Nazi collaboration. Dual justice is no justice at all.
THE COLLABORATION OF THE JUDENRAETE WITH THE NAZIS CAN BE GENERALIZED: HANNAH ARENDT (Eichmann in Jerusalem) WAS CORRECT
The following quote is from the following primary source cited by author Paul Bogdanor: Randolph L. Braham. 1974. A Role of the Jewish Council in Hungary: A Tentative Assessment. YAD VASHEM STUDIES 10:69-109.
„Although both the conservative assimilationist and the Zionist leaders of Hungarian Jewry were well aware of what the Nazis had wrought in the Jewish communities under their control, they neither kept the Jewish masses fully informed, nor did they take any precautionary measures to forestall or minimize the catastrophe in the event of an occupation of Hungary. The masses of Hungarian Jewry had no inkling of the mass murders committed in the German concentration camps and of the gas chambers. Those who heard something of the atrocities discounted them as rumors, or at best, as anti-Nazi propaganda. They, like their leaders, deluded themselves into thinking that what had happened in Poland and elsewhere could not possibly happen in Hungary, where the destiny of the Jews had been intertwined with that of the Christian Hungarians for over a thousand years.” (p. 77).
One common exculpation, for the collaboration of the JUDENRAETE with the Nazis (both active and passive), is the presumed desperation of Jews and Jewish leaders in the face of their impending annihilation. Braham’s statement, quoted above, upends this exculpation. Far from feeling overwhelmed by their upcoming annihilation, the Hungarian Jews and the local JUDENRAT had only a vague concept of the mortal danger they were in!
JEWISH COLLABORATION WITH THE NAZIS: NO EXCULPATORY MEMES
FACT: Not all Choices Faced by Jews, Under the Nazis, Were Choiceless Choices
FACT: Jews Were Neither Totally, Nor Consistently, Powerless Under the Nazis
So: JEWISH COLLABORATORS CAN BE EVERY BIT AS MORALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CONDUCT AS THE NON-JEWISH COLLABORATORS:
(Click on, and read my reviews of):
- Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival during the Holocaust
- Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood (Cambridge Middle East Studies)
- A Narrow Bridge to Life: Jewish Slave Labor and Survival in the Gross-Rosen Camp System, 1940-1945
- International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law (The Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law)
- The Holocaust in Israeli Public Debate in the 1950s: Ideology and Memory
- A Surplus of Memory : Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising(Hardback) – 1993 Edition
Gates of Tears: The Holocaust in the Lublin District
- The Portable Hannah Arendt (Penguin Classics)
- Jewish Honor Courts: Revenge, Retribution, and Reconciliation in Europe and Israel after the Holocaust
- How to Accept German Reparations (Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights)
- Eichmann in Jerusalem : A Report on the Banality of Evil (Revised and Enlarged)
Source: Amazon – Customer Review, June 12, 2018.
Published with the author’s permission.
Title image: Part of cover of „Kasztners Crime (Jewish Studies)” by Paul Bogdanor. Source: amazon.com. / selected by wg.pco