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The true, heart-wrenching story of Rezso Kasztner, a Hungarian lawyer and journalist, who rescued thousands of Jews during the last days of the Second World War - and the ultimate price he paid.
Summer 1944 - Rezso Kasztner meets with Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Holocaust, in Budapest. With the Final Solution at its terrible apex and tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews being sent to Auschwitz every month, the two men agree to allow 1,684 Jews to leave for Switzerland by train. The wealthy Jews of Budapest will pay an average of $1,500 for each family member to be included; the poor will pay nothing.
In addition to those on the train, Kasztner negotiates with Eichmann to keep 20,000 Hungarian Jews alive - Eichmann called them 'Kasztner's Jews' or the 'Jews on ice' - for a deposit of approximately $100 per head. These deals would haunt Kasztner to the end of his life.
After the war, Kasztner was vilified in an infamous Israeli libel trial for having 'sold his soul to the devil' in collaborating with the Nazis. In 1957, he was murdered while he awaited the Supreme Court verdict that eventually vindicated him.
Kasztner's Train explores the nature of Kasztner: the cool hero, the proud Zionist, the man who believed that promises, even to the Nazis, had to be kept. The deals he made raise questions about moral choices that continue to haunt the world today.
About the Author
Anna Porter was born in Hungary, settled in New Zealand after the 1956 Revolution, and moved to Canada in 1969. Founder of Key Porter Books, she is the author of four previous books, including The Storyteller, a childhood memoir. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
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 (The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies, 2000, etc.) 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)
Published: 6th March 2008
Dimensions (cm): 19.3 x 13.1 x 4.0
Weight (kg): 0.464