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Kastner Speaks: “My Conscience is Clear”

Jewish Observer and Middle East Review,
July 22, 1955

The man who has become an election issue in the battle for seats in the Knesset talked to the press on Wednesday of last week.

“My sole ambition during the fateful years under the Nazis was to save as many Jews as possible,” Kastner said in the interview. “Unfortunately it soon became evident that there was absolutely no hope of saving all Hungarian Jews. We, the Rescue Committee in Budapest, had to decide quickly whether we were willing to try and save at least a few. The answer,” he said, “was clear to me.”

Himmler’s Dream

The only chance of saving some Jews, or delaying their transfer to the camps, was by playing on Himmler’s dream of coming to an understanding with the Allies. Himmler must have known that Germany could not withstand the Allied assault much longer. To prove his “humanity,” Himmler needed some “live Jews.” Therefore he ordered through Becher that the order to exterminate all camp inmates given by Kaltenbrunner, Deputy Chief of the Gestapo, be cancelled.

The Jews in Hungary, though knowing all about the extermination camps, clung to their vain hopes.

Members of Kastner’s own family in Cluj, who were begged by Mrs. Kastner to try and flee, asked her to stop being “panicky.”

List “Not Compiled By Me”

There were 1,685 persons on the train which left for Switzerland – the only train of Jews which actually got out of Hungary.

The list was compiled by the Zionist Rescue Committee without his participation, Dr Kastner said.

He added that he was convinced that had a token medical supply been sent to the Germans by the Allies in exchange for Jews, many more condemned to die could have been saved.