Yad Vashem received private archive material from relatives of Rudolf “Israel” Kasztner, the controversial Hungarian Jew who negotiated with Nazis to save Jews.
As head of the Relief and Rescue Committee, a small Jewish communal organization during World War II, Kasztner “purchased” the right to send nearly 1,700 Jews to Switzerland in exchange for money, gold and diamonds. Some 20,000 more were sent to labor camps rather than death camps, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
Kasztner was lauded by some for saving Jews but condemned by others for negotiating with the Nazis. In 1957, a Holocaust survivor shot Kasztner in Israel, and he died of his wounds several days later.
The assassination followed a public vilification campaign more than a decade after the war in which an Israeli court ruled that public accusations describing Kasztner as a Nazi collaborator were not libelous and that Kasztner had “sold his soul to the devil” in negotiating with Adolf Eichmann. A year after the assassination, Israel’s Supreme Court overturned the ruling and cleared Kasztner’s name.
“There was no man in the history of the Holocaust who saved more Jews and was subjected to more injustice than Israel Kasztner,” said Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, chairman of Yad Vashem’s board of directors and himself a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. “This is an opportunity to do justice to a man who was misrepresented and was a victim on a vicious attack that led to his death.”
Family members said they hoped these private archives, including three boxes of letters documenting Kasztner’s correspondence with family, Jewish groups and Nazi officials, would salvage Kasztner’s reputation.