Kasztner Affair

views updated


Dramatic and highly politicized slander trial in Israel from January 1954 to June 1955.

Gossip journalist Malkiel Grunwald stood accused of defaming Dr. Rudolf Kasztner, director of public relations for the ministry of commerce and industry and hero of Holocaust rescue efforts on behalf of Hungarian Jewry. Kasztner's role in the failed 1944 negotiations to "buy" the survival of Hungary's Jews from Adolf Eichmann was portrayed by the defense as collaboration with the Nazis in exchange for the freedom of a handpicked few of Kasztner's friends and relatives who were transported to Switzerland as an agreed-upon "good faith" gesture. According to defense counsel Shmuel Tamir, whose Herut Party's political agenda was to associate Kasztner's "war-crimes" with the Jewish Agency and by extension with MAPAI party, it was to ensure this "delivery" that Kasztner kept from Hungarian Jewry the truth about its expected fate and encouraged Palestinian Jewish parachutists to surrender to the authorities. He was also disparaged for testifying on behalf of one of his Nazi inter-locutors, Kurt Becher, at the Nuremberg trials after World War II. Grunwald was acquitted. Reverberations of the trial led to the resignation of Prime Minister Moshe Sharett's government in June 1955. Kasztner was assassinated in March 1957 by three youths associated with the extreme right, ten months before Israel's Supreme Court overturned the ruling in the Grunwald case.

see also holocaust; israel: political parties in; jewish agency for palestine; sharett, moshe; tamir, shmuel.


Hecht, Ben. Perfidy. Jerusalem and New London, NH: Milah, 1997.

zev maghen