JERUSALEM (Jan. 15)
The Israel Supreme Court posthumously cleared Dr. Israel Kastner today of collaboration with the Nazis in his negotiations to save Jews in German-occupied Hungary during the late World War. The majority opinion, which was read out in court all day today, is expected to take three days to read to completion, after which the minority report will be heard.
The 200-page decision, written and read by Justice Simon Agranat, formerly a Kentucky attorney reversed a two-year-old decision of Jerusalem District Judge Benjamin Halevy, who in a libel case brought against pamphleteer Malkiel Gruenberg, held that the latter had substantiated charges of collaboration against Dr. Kastner. Dr. Halevy assessed a one pound fine against Mr. Gruenberg on the ground that he had written but not proved that Dr, Kastner personally profited from his dealings with Adolf Eichmann, Nazi "Jewish expert."
The appeal against the decision was carried by the government which had prosecuted Mr. Gruenberg on the grounds that he maligned an official of the government. Dr. Kastner, assassinated last March by terrorists who reportedly feared he would be cleared by the Supreme Court, had the official status of a witness in the original trial. However, in his 300-page verdict the district judge repeatedly castigated Dr. Kastner, asserting he had "sold his soul to the devil."
Granting that Dr. Kastner’s negotiations with Eichmann for the release of 100,000 Hungarian Jews against the payment of $2,000,000 was "patently immoral," Justice Agranat held that it was "unreasonable to adopt a technical attitude toward such an act when so much was at stake. " He said the lower court had the advantage of hindsight information which Dr. Kastner, under the existing circumstances and in the atmosphere of hopelessness of Hungarian Jewry, could not have known.
The Supreme Court held that collaboration required intent and than an analysis of the Gruenwald trial record did not support the contention that Dr. Kastner’s acts were part of a deliberate plot. It called Judge Halevy’s reasoning and conclusions "unfounded."