The Talmud says that “he who saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world.” So a person who saved 1,684 lives during the Holocaust would surely be considered a hero. But Rezsö (Rudolf Israel) Kasztner, a lawyer, journalist, and head of the Zionist Aid and Rescue Committee (Vaada) in Hungary during WWII, has a more complicated legacy, explored in the documentary Killing Kasztner, which was just released on DVD.
Some have called him the “Jewish Schindler,” but he has also been considered a traitor for his face-to-face dealings with Adolf Eichmann. Not only did he negotiate with the Nazis, he was also accused of withholding information about Auschwitz that could have saved lives, saving a hand-picked group of Jews (including the Satmar rebbe), and using communal funds inappropriately. Many Israelis scorned him after the war.
In 1957, he was assassinated in Tel Aviv. Killing Kasztner opens with scenes of Ze’ev Eckstein, Kasztner’s killer, as he describes his motivations and method. Director Gaylen Ross clearly views the film as a mission to restore Kasztner’s good name, but she doesn’t shy away from the controversy he inspired.
Watch the trailer of Killing Kasztner:
Watch an interview with Gaylen Ross, the director of Killing Kasztner: