Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


The 1955 Kasztner libel case
The verdict of Judge Benjamin Halevi

Rudolf Kasztner

THE KASTNER TRIAL - shown at the Jewish Film Festival in 1997

Czech film about Rabbi Weissmandel: Among Blind Fools

The Nizkor Project: Dedicated to the millions of Holocaust victims who suffered and died

Simon Wiesenthal Centre

Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium: Holocaust Home Page

The Confession of Adolph Eichmann

Revolt of Warsaw's Jews

 Jews of Hungary website

Hannah Szenes: famous Jewish partisan betrayed by Kastner

Jews not Zionists website

Purchase Pefidy by Ben Hecht

 The Holocaust/O Porrajmos

Roma and the Holocaust

The 1955 Kasztner libel case: the verdict of Judge Benjamin Halevi

The state of Israel claimed that Malkiel Grünwald's allegations against Kasztner were a lie. When Grünwald published these accusations, the Israeli Government did rather more than demand that his views should not be broadcast. Because a prominent Zionist official (Dr. Kastner was a spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry) was involved, the Attorney General of the State of Israel prosecuted Grünwald for criminal libel. Let the verdict of Judge Benjamin Halevi (who later became one of the panel of three judges that tried Eichmann) in Israel's District Court of Jerusalem speak for itself.

The Attorney General v. Malkiel Grünwald

This material should be studied carefully. The masses of Jews from Hungary's ghettos obediently boarded the deportation trains without knowing their fate. They were full of confidence in the false information that they were being transferred to Kenyermeze. The Nazis could not have misled the masses of Jews so conclusively had they not spread their false information through Jewish channels.

The Jews of the ghettos would not have trusted the Nazi or Hungarian rulers. But they had trust in their Jewish leaders. Eichmann and others used this known fact as part of their calculated plan to mislead the Jews. They were able to deport the Jews to their extermination by the help of Jewish leaders. The false information was spread by the Jewish leaders. The local leaders of the Jews of Kluj and Nodvarod knew that other leaders were spreading such false information and did not protest. Those of the Jews who tried to warn their friends of the truth were persecuted by the Jewish leaders in charge of the local 'rescue work'. The trust of the Jews in the misleading information and their lack of knowledge that their wives, children and themselves were about to be deported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz led the victims to remain quiescent in their ghettos. It seduced them into not resisting or hampering the deportation orders. Dozens of thousands of Jews were guarded in their ghettos by a few dozen police. Yet even vigorous young Jews made no attempt to overpower these few guards and escape to nearby Rumania. No resistance activities to the deportations were organized in these ghettos. And the Jewish leaders did everything in their power to soothe the Jews in the ghettos and to prevent such resistance activities. The same Jews who spread in Kluj and Nodvarod the false rumor of Kenyermeze, or confirmed it, the same public leaders who did not warn their own people against the misleading statements, the same Jewish leaders who did not organize any resistance or any sabotage of deportations . . . these same leaders did not join the people of their community in their ride to Auschwitz, but were all included in the Rescue train. The Nazi organizers of extermination and the perpetrators of extermination permitted Rudolf Kastner and the members of the Jewish Council in Budapest to save themselves, their relatives, and friends. The Nazis did this as a means of making the local Jewish leaders, whom they favoured, dependent on the Nazi regime, dependent on its good will during the time of its fatal deportation schedule. In short, the Nazis succeeded in bringing the Jewish leaders into collaboration with the Nazis at the time of the catastrophe.

The Nazi chiefs knew that the Zionists were a most vital element in Jewry and the most trusted by the Jews. The Nazis drew a lesson from the Warsaw ghetto and other belligerent ghettos. They learned that Jews were able to sell their lives very expensively if honorably guided. Eichmann did not want a second Warsaw. For this reason, the Nazis exerted themselves to mislead and bribe the Jewish leaders. The personality of Rudolph Kastner made him a convenient catspaw for Eichmann and his clique, to draw into collaboration and make their task easier.

The question here is not, as stated by the Attorney General in his summation, whether members of the Jewish Rescue Committee were or were not capable of fulfilling their duty without the patronage of the S.S. chiefs. It is obvious that without such S.S. Nazi patronage the Jewish Rescue Committee could not have existed, and could have acted only as an underground. The question is, as put by the lawyer for the defense, why were the Nazis interested in the existence of the Rescue Committee? Why did the S.S. chiefs make every effort to encourage the existence of the Jewish Rescue Committee? Did the exterminators turn into rescuers?

The same question rises concerning the rescue of prominent Jews by these German killers of Jews. Was the rescue of such Jews a part of the extermination plan of the killers ? The support given by the extermination leaders to Kastner's Rescue Committee proves that indeed there was a place for Kastner and his friends in their Final Solution for the Jews of Hungary - their total annihilation. The Nazi's patronage of Kastner, and their agreement to let him save six hundred prominent Jews, were part of the plan to exterminate the Jews. Kastner was given a chance to add a few more to that number. The bait attracted him. The opportunity of rescuing prominent people appealed to him greatly. He considered the rescue of the most important Jews as a great personal success and a success for Zionism. It was a success that would also justify his conduct - his political negotiation with Nazis and the Nazi patronage of his committee. When Kastner received this present from the Nazis, Kastner sold his soul to the German Satan.

The sacrifice of the vital interests of the majority of the Jews, in order to rescue the prominents, was the basic element in the agreement between Kastner and the Nazis. This agreement fixed the division of the nation into two unequal camps: a small fragment of prominents, whom the Nazis promised Kastner to save, on the one hand, and the great majority or Hungarian Jews whom the Nazis designated for death, on the other hand. An imperative condition for the rescue of the first camp by the Nazis was that Kastner will not interfere in the action of the Nazis against the other camp and will not hamper them in its extermination. Kastner fulfilled this condition. He concentrated his efforts in the rescue of the prominents and treated the camp of the doomed as if they had already been wiped out from the book of the living. One cannot estimate the damage caused by Kastner's collaboration and put down the number of victims which it cost Hungarian Jews. These are not only the thousands of Jews in Nodvarod or any other community in the border area, Jews who could escape through the border, had the chief of their rescue committee fulfilled his duty toward them.

All of Kastner's answers in his final testimony were a constant effort to evade this truth. Kastner has tried to escape through every crack he could find in the wall of evidence. When one crack was sealed in his face, he darted quickly to another".

Judge Halevi reverts to the meeting of Kastner with the S.S. officers Becher and Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz at the time when the 'new line' of rescuing Jews was revealed by Hoess. He says:

From this gathering in Budapest, it is obvious that the 'new line' stretched from Himmler to Hoess, from Jutner to Becher and Krumey. According to Kastner, however, these Nazis were all active in rescuing Jews. This meeting of these important German guests in Budapest exposes the 'rescue' work of Becher in its true light. It reveals also the extent of Kastner's involvement in the inner circle of the chief German war criminals. Just as the Nazi war criminals knew they needed an alibi and hoped to achieve it by the rescue of a few Jews at the eleventh hour, so Kastner also needed an alibi for himself. Collaboration between the Jewish Agency Rescue Committee and the Exterminators of the Jews was solidified in Budapest and Vienna. Kastner's duties were part and parcel of the general duties of the S.S. In addition to its Extermination Department and Looting Department, the Nazi S.S. opened a Rescue Department headed by Kastner. All these extermination, robbery and rescue activities of the S.S. were coordinated under the management of Heinrich Himmler . . . Kastner perjured himself knowingly in his testimony before this court when he denied he had interceded in Becher's behalf. Moreover, he concealed the important fact that he interceded for Becher in the name of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish World Congress.

As to the contents of Kastner's affidavit, it was enough for the defense to provide Becher was a war criminal. It was up to the prosecution to remove Becher from this status, if they wished to negate the affidavit. The Attorney General admitted in his summation that Becher was a war criminal. The lies in the contents of Kastner's affidavit, the lies in his testimony concerning the document, and Kastner's knowing participation in the activities of Nazi war criminals, and his participation in the last minute fake rescue activities - all these combine to show one overwhelming truth - that this affidavit was not given in good faith. Kastner knew well, as he himself testified, that Becher had never stood up against the stream of Jewish extermination, as Kastner has declared in the affidavit. The aims of Becher and his superior, Himmler, were not to save Jews but to serve the Nazi regime with full compliance.

These is not truth and no good faith in Kastner's testimony, 'I never doubted for one moment the good intention of good Becher'. It is clear that the positive recommendation by Kastner, not only in his own name but also in the name of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish World Congress was of decisive importance for Becher. Kastner did not exaggerate when he said that Becher was released by the Allies because of his personal intervention. The lies in the affidavit of Kastner and the contradictions and various pretexts, which were proven to be lies, were sufficient to annul the value of his statements and to prove that there was no good faith in his testimony in favor of this German war criminal. Kastner's affidavit in favor of Becher was a wilfully false affidavit given in favor of a war criminal to save him from trial and punishment in Nuremberg. Therefore, the defendant, Malkiel Grünwald, was correct in his accusations against Rudolf Kastner in the first, second and fourth of his statements."

Malkiel Grünwald was found generally innocent of libel against Kastner, but fined him one Israeli pound for the one unproved accusation - that Kastner had actually collected money from his Nazi partners for his aide to their slaughter program. The judge also ordered the Government of Israel to pay Grünwald two hundred Israeli pounds as court costs.

(Judgement of Judge Benjamin Halevi, Criminal Case 124/53; Attorney General v. Malchiel Greenwald, District Court, Jerusalem, June 22, 1955).