Roosevelt’s Efforts to Save Hungarian Jews Revealed at Eichmann Trial
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Roosevelt’s Efforts to Save Hungarian Jews Revealed at Eichmann Trial

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United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the King of Sweden gave Admiral Horthy, wartime dictator of Hungary, an ultimatum in 1944 to cease deporting Jews or Hungary would be subjected to a fate worse than any other warring country, it was revealed at the Adolf Eichmann trial here today.

According to the testimony by Pinhas Freudiger, president of the Budapest Jewish Community at that time, Horthy failed to reply to the ultimatum, delivered to him by the Swiss Minister, M. Jaeger. The ultimatum expired on June 30, and British and American bombers bombed Budapest on July 2. The next day, Admiral Horthy told Jaeger he had ordered that Jewish deportations from Hungary cease–but the Hungarian dictator’s order was countermanded by Eichmann, Freudiger testified.

Mr. Freudiger’s testimony about Roosevelt’s effort to help the Hungarian Jews came after two spectators in the courtroom lost control of their emotions and shouted out, one of them leveling an accusation against Freudiger. For the first time since the Eichmann trial was convened, the court recessed for 20 minutes after those outbursts.

Sander Szilagyi and Avraham Cassirer, both emigres from Hungary, created the scene in the courtroom after Mr. Freudiger had told of several meetings with Eichmann and with the latter’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, Mr. Freudiger had just identified Eichmann, sitting in his bullet-proof, glass-enclosed dock, as the Gestapo officer who directed the deportation of more than 600,000 Hungarian Jews to death camps when Mr. Szilagyi Jumped up in the audience, waved at the witness and screamed “You helped the Germans and saved your own family. Mine was sent to death.”

Mr. Szilagyi also shouted at the witness, before he was removed by guards, “you told us not to escape.” As he was taken from the courtroom, he sobbed, “my whole family was exterminated. Put yourself in my place.”

Mr. Cassirer, who lost 69 members of his family and relatives, including his wife and two children, shouted at Eichmann, “Murderer, beast of prey–there are still Jews who were not exterminated who will see that you get yours.”

Mr. Freudiger told the court today that by the end of June 1944, only three months after the Nazi occupation, 80 percent of Hungarian Jews were deported. Asked by prosecutor Gavriel Bach if he could identify the defendant, the witness said “he remains in my memory in uniform and high boots, shouting at me in the master race tone of voice. Despite that I think this is the same man.”

He said that mass deportations started at the rate of 4,000 a day on May 15, 1944 and that by July 4, some 600,000 men, women and children had been deported. He told of receiving a clandestine letter saying that 1,400,000 Jews had already been murdered at Auschwitz.

Mr. Freudiger told, in his testimony today, how Eichmann, directing the extermination of Hungarian Jews from his field office in Budapest, fought against plans to exchange Hungarian Jews for ransom money from abroad, and how he outwitted Admiral Horthy. He described a meeting with Eichmann which occurred when the Hungarian Jewish leader sought to discuss the fate of Hungarian Jews arrested for traveling on trains.

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