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


Kasztner's List: Zionist collaboration in Hungary
Seán Mac Mathúna

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

Israeli treatment of a Nazi collaborator

Jews not Zionists website

Purchase Pefidy by Ben Hecht

 The Holocaust/O Porrajmos

Roma and the Holocaust

The Action of the Holy See for the Jews of Europe: Hungary

From the front page of the British newspaper, The People, 17th October 1943. Proof of a systematic campaign to wipe out the Jews of Europe had reached the Zionists some ten months earlier:
Brothers - the remaining Jews in Poland live with the awareness that in the most terrible days of our history you did not come to our aid. Respond, at least in the last days of our life - message via the Polish Underground from the Jewish National Committee in Warsaw, January 1943.

Jim Allens play Perdition was described as "the most controversial play of the 1980s", as it accused the Zionist movement of collaborating with the Nazis in the extermination of over 500,000 Hungarian Jews (The Guardian, 23rd April 1999). The play deals with the collaboration of some of the Zionist leaders of Hungary's Jews, notably Rudolf Kasztner. It would be unfair to label the whole Zionist movement as mere quislings of the Nazi regime: many Zionists fought heroically as partisans, participating in uprisings such as the one in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, whilst others in occupied Europe actively resisted fascism and did what they could to help people escape the SS extermination squads that roamed the countryside of Eastern Europe, and the death camps and gas chambers of Auschwitz. However, in Hungary in 1944, a different picture emerges of the activities of the Zionists, and the source of the allegations made against Kasztner comes from Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust, such as Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel, Rudolf Vrba and post-war writers such as Lenni Brenner.

They have claimed that the leadership of the Zionist movement engaged in a shocking failure to support pleas for rescue, the suppression of news of the holocaust and for regarding the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine of having greater priority than saving the majority of Europe's Jews from the Nazi death camps. They are alleged to have ignored messages such as the following which came from the 'Jewish National Committee' in Warsaw, via the Polish underground, on 21st January 1943, and simply read as follows:

"We notify you of the greatest crime of all times, about the murder of millions of Jews in Poland. Poised at the brink of the annihilation of the still surviving Jews, we ask you:
  • Revenge against the Germans
  • Force the Hitlerites to halt the murders
  • Fight for our lives and our honor
  • Contact the neutral countries
  • Rescue 10,000 children through exchange
  • 500,000 dollars for purposes of aid

Brothers - the remaining Jews in Poland live with the awareness that in the most terrible days of our history you did not come to our aid. Respond, at least in the last days of our life." (Quoted by Lucy Dawidowicz in The War Against the Jews 1933-45. (Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1977, p.403)

The Hungarian Jewish refugee Arthur Koestler, was another person attempting to alert people to the fate of Europe's Jews. According to Martin Gilbert, writing in his book Auschwitz and the Allies (Michael Joseph, London, England, 1981), even during the period at the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, the stories of German atrocities were still not fully believed. One of those concerned by this fact was Koestler, then working as a journalist and lecturer in Britain. "At present", he wrote in the New York Times Magazine in January 1944:

"We have the mania of trying to tell you about the killing, by hot steam, mass-electrocution and live burial, of the total Jewish population of Europe. So far three million have died. It is the greatest mass-killing in recorded history; and it goes on daily, hourly, as regularly as the ticking of your watch."

Gilbert notes that Koestler's own "emotion and bitterness" arose because he had on his desk in front of him photographs of the killing of Jews - photographs, which Koestler noted, people had died to smuggle out of Poland. Koestler's article continued:

"I have been lecturing now for three years to the troops, and their attitude is the same. They don't believe in concentration camps, they don't believe in the starved children of Greece, in the shot hostages of France, in the mass-graves of Poland ; they have never heard of Lidice. Treblinka or Belzac you can convince them for in hour, then they shake themselves, their mental self-defence begins to work and in a week the shrug of incredulity has returned like reflex temporarily weakened by a shock.

Clearly all this is becoming a mania with me and my like. Clearly we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas you others are healthy and normal. But the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a fantasy world. So, perhaps, it is the other way round: perhaps it is we, the screamers, who react in a sound and healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who totter about ill a screened fantasy world because you lack the faculty to face the facts."

Unlike the socialist Bund, the founders of the Zionism movement at the turn of the 20th century argued that the Jewish "question" in Europe could only be solved by the Jewwish people leaving the continent and creating a homeland in Palestine. It would be the rise of fascism across Europe in the 1930's and the Holocaust that would see the Bund destroyed as a political movement and its place as a representative of the Jewish people of Eastern and Central Europe taken by the Zionists. It is clear that there is much evdience that the Zionists took this opportunity not to help the Jewish people as they were being slowly led to the death camps, or alert the world about the plans of the Nazis, but to collaborate with them and use their position to save their own, and not the bulk of Jewry who being exterminated towards the end of the war.

During the Second World War, the main non-Zionist organization in Europe was the Socialist Bund. Although equipped with few resources, it did the most to publicize the Holocaust and seek support for Jewish resistance in Europe. On the other hand, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) was an international organization with a large intelligence network. Specifically, it was the only Jewish international organization which had liaison offices inside Nazi Europe. It had direct organizational links with Zionist groups throughout Europe and direct access to and political influence with the Allied powers. It was also involved in arms smuggling and financial operations, but this vast apparatus, which then had illegal armed forces in Palestine, was not used to publicize the Holocaust or support beleaguered ghetto fighters or aiding rescue activities. It was accused of covering up the crimes of the Nazi regime until the Allied powers decided to publicize it, not assisting Jewish resistance groups, and not making attempt to rescue the bulk of European Jewry.

The Zionists did not lead the resistance in the ghetto, these activities were generally led by Bundists and Communists. Jews organized resistance movements and took part in partisan warfare throughout occupied Europe - usually under Communist leadership, often under direct command of the Soviet Red Army. These groups made a substantial contribution to the Allied war effort. It should be said as well, that many Zionists had no choice but to fight back against the Nazis, and some fought bravely in ghetto rebellions and partisan warfare. But in the Warsaw ghetto, where their contribution was greatest, the majority of fighters were either Communist, Bundist or unaffiliated. Furthermore, although many left-wing Zionists and Revisionists made a substantial contribution to the Warsaw ghetto rebellion in 1943, the first target of the resistance fighters was often other Zionists, who were leaders of the Nazi sponsored Judenrat, the hated ghetto police and the Jewish Gestapo. This included Dr. Alfred Nossig, who was shot by the Warsaw ghetto fighters as a Gestapo agent.

Generally, it has been argued that whatever the role some Zionists played in the resistance activities, the plain fact is that they got little or no support from the WZO, whose leadership was too busy demanding unrestricted immigration to Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish Army in the country. Furthermore, the Zionists were engaged in an armed struggle against the British mandate in Palestine, where they maintained a very efficient clandestine armed force throughout the war. They carried out the assassination of the British Minister Lord Moyne in Cairo in November 1944. They had extensive arms smuggling operations which substantially depleted British armories and forced the diversion of British troops away from the battlefront to guard duty in Palestine. The arms stolen by the Zionists were not for use against the Nazis, but were to be used against the British army and the Arab population.

One advocate of not helping the Jews of Europe was the Zionist leader Yitzhak Greenbaum, whose son was described in Nazi-Zionist Collaboration once as a "exceptionally notorious" Kapo (Jewish policeman) at Auschwitz. Greenbaum was Rudolf Kasztner's immediate superior in the Jewish Agency, as head of the Rescue Committee for European Jewry, and later became a cabinet minister in Israel's first Government in 1948. In a speech given in Palestine in 1943, he indicated that buying land from the Arab population of Palestine was more important than rescuing Jews in Europe, and, as he admitted after the war, he had even called for less to be said about the extermination of the Jews, so as not to distract attention from buying land in Palestine. It is a shocking indictment of Zionism and its wartime leaders.

Thus, the Zionist policy during the Holocaust is best summed up in the words of Greenbaum speaking on 'The Diaspora and the Redemption' at a Tel Aviv meeting in Palestine during February 1943:

For the rescue of the Jews in the Diaspora, we should consolidate our excess strength and the surplus of powers that we have. When they come to us with two plans - the rescue of the masses of Jews in Europe or the redemption of the land - I vote, without a second thought, for the redemption of the land. The more said about the slaughter of our people, the greater the minimization of our efforts to strengthen and promote the Hebraization of the land. If there would be a possibility today of buying packages of food with the money of the 'Keren Hayesod' (United Jewish Appeal) to send it through Lisbon, would we do such a thing? No! And once again No!"

This Greenbaum confirmed after the war:

When they asked me, couldn't you give money out of the United Jewish Appeal funds for the rescue of Jews in Europe, I said, 'NO!' and I say again 'NO!' . . . one should resist this wave which pushes the Zionist activities to secondary importance."

Here we have proof that the establishment of Zionist state in Palestine was the most important priority of the Zionists - not saving the Jews of Europe from extermination. As Rabbi Moshe Shonfeld, in his book The Holocaust Victims Accuse (1977) commented:

The rescue committee of the Jewish Agency falsely bore the name 'rescue'. It would be more appropriate to call it the Committee for Covering Up, Ignoring and Silencing . . . the thoughts of Zionist officials and especially the chairman, Greenbaum, were steeped in plots and schemes to use the holocaust and its consequences to build up the national home and to realize the demands for establishing a Jewish State.

Rabbi Shonfeld noted that other Zionist leaders saw "the shedding of Jewish blood in the Diaspora" as being "necessary in order for us to demand the establishment of a 'Jewish' state" in Palestine. The fate of the Jews of Czechoslovakia was similar to those in Hungary under Kasztner. Money was sent to save a group of Zionist 'chalutzim' (pioneers), while the remainder of the Czech Jews "must resign itself to annihilation in the Auschwitz crematoria." This was effectively the view put forward by Nathan Schwalb, the representative of the Jewish Agency in Switzerland, to the Rescue Committee for Czech Jewry also said:

Since we have the opportunity of this courier, we are writing to the group that they must always remember that matter which is the most important, which is the main issue that must always be before our eyes. After all, the allies will be victorious. After the victory, they will once again divide up the world between the nations as they did at the end of first war. Then they opened the way for us for the first step and now, as the war ends, we must do everything so that Eretz Yisroel should become a Jewish state. Important steps have already been taken in this matter. As to the cry that comes from your country, we must be aware that all the nations of the Allies are spilling much blood and if we do not bring sacrifices, with what will we achieve the right to sit at the table when they make the distribution of nations and territories after the war? And so it would be foolish and impertinent on our side to ask the nations whose blood is being spilled in order to protect our own blood. Because 'rak b'dam tihyu lanu haaretz' (only through blood will the land be ours). As to yourselves - members of the group - you will get out, and for this purpose we are providing you with funds by this courier.

The Zionist leadership not only kept quiet about the news of the holocaust, they actively suppressed it. During his libel trial in Israel after the war, the alleged Nazi collaborator Rudolf Kasztner excused his own silence about the death camps by telling an Israeli Court that other Jewish Agency representatives suppressed the news of the holocaust. Kasztner claimed that he learned later that representatives of the Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee in Switzerland did not give out information to the world press about the extermination of the Jews. Kasztner says he sent cables Istanbul Rescue Committee (of the Jewish Agency), which he also found out were kept secret from the press. The writer Ben Hecht quotes Kasztner as telling an the Israeli court:

I informed them almost daily by cables about the pace of the extermination. My cables were never published anywhere."(Hecht, Ben: Perfidy, Julian Messner, New York, USA, 1961, p.91).

The author Ben Hecht found other examples of the Zionists suppressing the news of the holocaust. When during Kasztner's libel case, Tamir Aktzin, the dean of the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was asked if it was true that the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency did suppress the news of the extermination in the United States up to and through 1941, he replied:

The Zionists, Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee did refrain from publicizing in the American press the massacre of Jews.

Furthermore, before the war had ended in 1945, a Jewish survivors from Poland came to the annual meeting of the World Jewish Congress. They accused them of two key failures:

1) Not publicizing to the Allies and the world that the Jews were being exterminated.

2) Of having neglected practical possibilities of rescue and help.

If this was not enough, one year earlier in 1944, the Jewish Agency had also received the letter from Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel, sent from a cave in Lublin, Poland, warning that the deportation of the Jews of Hungary had already begun. He described in immense detail how every day, 12,000 Jews are taken off in trains and how in 45 days the entire Jewish population of Hungary will have been taken to the death camps. Weissmandel told them that the 95% of them were put to death by cyanide. He added that the dead bodies were burnt in ovens at the rate of 12 per hour, and that 36 ovens had been built at Auschwitz. He noted how the SS had formerly killed the Jews in the forest at Birkenwald (near Auschwitz), and how the killings were now taking place at the death camp, of which he supplied a map (probably in the hope that it assist Allied bombers). He urged the leaders of the Jewish Agency to tell the Allies not only to bomb the ovens at Aushwitz, but all the railway lines leading to the death camps in the area.

If the Allies had been passed this information, than with the figure of 12,000 a day, over 300,000 lives could have been saved if the transport links to the deaths camps were put out of action. Furthermore Weissmandel suggested that the Zionist leaders use their influence to proclaim to the world (via radio broadcasts) that the extermination of the Jews was being carried out, and to inform the Pope of this news.

Common sense at least would suggest that radio broadcasts should have been used to at least warn all so-called "sub-human groups" being targeted by the Nazis for extermination &endash; the Jews, Roma (Gipsy) and Slavic peoples that this was happening and to organise to resist and save lifes and the heroic fighters of the Warsaw ghetto had done. Imagine if the Nazi's had been confronted with a thousand rebellions like the Warsaw Ghetto ? This and the bombing of the railway lines to the camps would have saved thousands of lives. Nothing was done.

In the Kasztner libel case, it was noted that six weeks after the deportation of the Jews of Hungary had begun, not "a single authortive word" was uttered by the Jewish Agency or any Zionist officials, and already half a million had been killed. It is accepted that the Jewish Agency had the "best and most exact information" on the fate of the Hungarian Jews, and crucially, there was no British censorship of such items, as proven in the Israeli court.

Later, the Zionist leaders offered as explanation that "it was inadvisable because of own diplomatic ties with these governments" to publicise the news of the holocaust. It is widely accepted that the Zionists refrained from putting sufficient pressure on the Allies to intervene to rescue the Jews. It is claimed that they did nnot want to prejudice freindly realtions with the Allies, and the future establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine with American and British support.

In 1964, Greenbaum again indicated that this was one of the main wartime policies of the Zionists and that they could justify their policy of hiding the facts about the Holocaust. In a speech on 1 January 1964. He said:

Whoever is building the homeland and is battling for the very existence of the homeland, is excused from knowing; for he has another, greater obligation." (Shonfeld, p.79)

Tamir Aktzin stated:

Why this suppression of the dreadful news by Ben-Gurion, Sharett, Weizmann and all the official leaders of Jewry? Because, had the masses in Palestine known then what was happening in Hungary, and known then the stony hearts of their leaders, a storm would have risen in our land. Power would have fallen out of their hands. And this, it seems, was more important to them.

There is no other explanation. Therefore I said: "Collaboration here, parallel to collaboration there. But if the collaboration there has developed under German pressure, here we talk of men who lived in the free world, whose discretion could be more balanced, who were in control of good youth, wonderful youth, which awaited a command. The fact remains that the moral and historical responsibility, as far as Jews are concerned, lies first and foremost on those who lived in the free world. And though I am here to prove the guilt of Kastner, I say that his responsibility is lesser than that of the leaders of our free Jewish world" (Perfidy, p.148)

Rabbi Weissmandel may not have known, but the whole world knew of Hitler's plan for the extermination of the Jews, Roma and Slavic peoples, after a formal Allied declaration about the Nazi "Final Solution" in December 1942.

In my opinion, l regard the greatest moment in the recent history of the Jewish people as being the heroic resistance shown by the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising in 1943. I always wondered after seeing Steven Speilberg's controversial movie Schindler's List why he had hadn't used the story of the Warsaw Ghetto as the background subject to the Nazi "Final Solution". After all, it shows the Jews fighting back rather than going meekly to the death camps at the behest of the Nazi-sponsored Judenrat (Jewish Councils) - many of who were shot by the resistance fighters in Warsaw as Nazi collaborators, such as Dr. Alfred Nossig.

As for resistance, take, for example, the message to Yugoslavia's Jews from Tito's Communist Partisans at the start of the Nazi occupation:

"You will probably die. The only real choice is how. Take a gun and share our lives in the mountains or await betrayal and the journey to the death camps" (cited in Perfidy in the Balkans: The Rape of Yugoslavia by Arnold Sherman. Psichogios Publications, Athens, Greece, 1993)

Surely the least the Zionist leaders based in Switzerland and the USA could have done was to encourage resistance rather than collaboration ? The example of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto showed that large numbers of German troops could be tied down by such actions. This could easily have been done in Hungary to stop the deportations. It would have diverted away from both the Western and Eastern fronts, valaubale German rsesources at a critical point of the war. Instead, it is alleged, Hungary's Zionist leaders, led by Kasztner, collaborated with the Nazi's.

Who was Oskar Schindler ? a Nazi industrialist who saved "good Jews" from the death camps to work in his factories which supplied the German war machine with ammunition. These Jews, it could be argued, were themselves collaborators - Schindler's List would let us believe that they were also Zionists, which if true, would possibly account for the why Schindler was prepared to use them as his workers. That Schindler had met another alleged Nazi collaborator - Rudolf Kasztner - is of considerable interest to those researching the shameful collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazi regime. Like Schindler, Kasztner also had his list, and is alleged to have saved his fellow Zionists and their families from the holocaust so they could build the "promised land" in Palestine. In his case, 1600 Hungarian Jews were saved as 476,000 went to extermination in the death camps.

It is claimed that the first goal of the Zionists was the establishment of the state of Israel &endash; not the saving of the great mass of Jewish lives from the holocaust - or even using their privileged position to urge the Allies to bomb the death camps and all the railways leading to them - as 12,000 people a day were being wiped out.

This was indicated by the Zionist leader Yitzhak Greenbaum, who said in a speech in Tel Aviv, Palestine, on February 18th, 1943 that 'One should resist this wave to push Zionist activities to secondary importance'. He also said 'One cow in Palestine is more important than all the European Jews'. The motto of the Zionists was Rak B'Dam (Only by blood will we get the land).

This supports the allegation made by holocuast survivors such as Weissmandel and Vrba, writers such as Brenner and contained in the play Perdition, that the Zionists scarificed all principles in their attempt to get the Jewish homeland established after the war. Our aim in this section is to look at all the allegations surrounding Rudolf Kasztner and the wider background into Jim Allen's play, Perdition.


Nazi-Zionist Collaboration, pamphlet published in 1981 by BAZO-PS - British Anti-Zionist Organization/Palestine Solidarity, London;
Perfidy, Hecht, Ben. Julian Messner, New York, USA, 1961;
Auschwitz and the Allies: How the Allies responded to the news of Hitler's Final Solution. Martin Gilbert, published by Michael Joseph, London, England, 1981.

© 1999