■ OF ALL the Righteous among the Nations, the name of Swedish diplomat Raoul
Wallenberg is inextricably bound with both the fate and the future of the Jewish
people. Wallenberg, who was stationed in Budapest during the Nazi occupation of
Hungary, enlisted the help of fellow diplomats from other countries in issuing
thousands of protective passports that enabled Jews to travel to relative
He also provided safehouses for them and sheltered them in
buildings that were diplomatically designated as Swedish
Detained by the Soviet authorities during the Red Army’s
January 1945 siege of Budapest, Wallenberg disappeared and for decades no one in
the West knew what had happened to him.
There were unconfirmed reports
that he had died in Lubyanka prison in 1947. There were further unconfirmed
reports by former prisoners of the Soviet authorities, who claimed to have
shared a cell with someone who they said was Wallenberg. After a 10-year
investigation by a top-level Swedish team, the Swedes published an announcement
in 1999 stating that no evidence had been found that Wallenberg had died in 1947
and that it was possible that he might still be alive.
However, a Russian
team that had worked in tandem with the Swedish team insisted that Wallenberg
was dead, and that he had been executed on charges of spying for Germany, and
that most of the documents relating to the case had been destroyed.
if Wallenberg had been alive in 1999, it is hardly likely that he would be alive
Whether or not Wallenberg survived the war, it is unlikely he is
alive today. But 2012 is an important year for remembering Wallenberg because it
is the 100th anniversary year of his birth.
Even though he was born on
August 4, 1912, Ben- Gurion University in conjunction with the Wallenberg
Association Beersheba, REEM, the Central Council for Volunteer Organizations and
the Municipality of Beersheba chose to celebrate his centenary on Monday,
February 6 in the Minkoff Senate Hall. There was a Wallenberg memorial exhibit
The late afternoon event was held in the presence of Swedish
Ambassador Elinor Hammarskjold, Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and head of Yad
Vashem’s Department of Righteous among the Nations Irena Steinfeldt. The keynote
speaker was internationally acclaimed Canadian human rights activist, Member of
Parliament and former justice minister Irwin Cotler, who spoke on Wallenberg’s
Cotler told Jerusalem Post
editors on Sunday that the Swedish
government had organized a set of commemorative activities this year to mark the
centenary of Wallenberg’s birth, involving countries of which Wallenberg had
honorary citizenship – including Israel, the US and Canada.
of the fate and whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg remains unknown,” he
“I chaired an international commission on the fate and whereabouts
of Raoul Wallenberg. In 1990, we tendered our [1,200- page] report to Mikhail
Gorbachev, who was visiting Canada at the time, and frankly what was true then
is true now.
“The conclusion was that the evidence is incontrovertible
that Wallenberg did not die in 1947 as the Soviets claimed he did.
the evidence is compelling that Wallenberg was alive in the Fifties and Sixties,
and credible that he was alive in the Seventies and Eighties. Three, that the
burden of proof remained on the Soviets to engage or rebut this evidence, and as
I said then, and is true now, they have never rebutted that evidence. And four,
as a matter of fact and law, Wallenberg remains a disappeared person. We simply
don’t know what happened to him. Finally, the smoking gun is with the KGB; they
know what in fact happened and won’t release any evidence.
telling you all this is because it’s no longer historical.
ago, Susanne Berger, a very good researcher who was on our commission, reported
that at the time we were involved in our inquiry, a KGB person now disclosed
that he was ordered then – 20 years ago – not to give us any
■ OF COURSE, it is difficult to think of Hungarian Jews
during the Holocaust years without thinking of Rudolf (Reszo) Kasztner, the
Hungarian Jewish lawyer who bargained with Adolph Eichmann for the safe passage
to Switzerland of 1684 Jews whose lives he ultimately saved. No one even knows
how many more Jews escaped the gas chambers as a result of Kasztner’s
Kasztner, who was the grandfather of radio and television
personality Merav Michaeli, was regarded by some as a hero but reviled by others
as a traitor because so many of the Jews he saved were members of his own
family, which was seen as a betrayal of other Jews.
Kasztner was a member
of a Jewish Aid and Rescue organization that helped Jews escape from Hungary in
the early months of the Nazi invasion. But when the Nazis began sending
thousands of Jews to Auschwitz on a daily basis, he felt that he had to do
something extraordinary and, taking his courage in his hands, began to negotiate
with Eichmann, offering money, gold and diamonds in exchange for Jewish
After the war Kasztner relocated to Israel where, in 1952, he
became spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In 1953, Malchiel
Grunwald, an amateur writer, published a pamphlet accusing Kasztner of having
collaborated with the Nazis.
This was based not only Kasztner’s
negotiations with Eichmann, but also on the fact that after the war he gave
character references to several SS officers, enabling them to temporarily avoid
prosecution for war crimes. The government sued Grunwald on Kastner’s behalf but
Judge Benjamin Halevi was inclined to believe that Kasztner had sold his soul to
the devil. In the aftermath, Kasztner resigned from the ministry and became a
recluse. His wife went into a deep depression and his daughter suffered not only
emotionally from the barbs of her schoolmates but also the physical pain of
having stones thrown at her.
In March 1957, Kasztner was shot outside his
home in Tel Aviv by Ze’ev Eckstein, who had been a member of Lehi before the
establishment of the state. Kasztner, who died of his wounds 12 days later was
exonerated by the Supreme Court the next year.
Film director Gaylen Ross
was fascinated by the a story and decided to make it into a documentary, which
she called Killing Kasztner. She spent eight years researching and filming,
interviewing survivors, historians, journalists and Kasztner’s
What most people held against him was not so much the fact
that he negotiated with the enemy but that he failed to warn those in danger of
being deported to Auschwitz of what awaited them there. The film will be
screened on Friday morning, February 17, in the auditorium of the Cohen-Porter
building on the Tel Aviv University campus.
Proceeds from ticket sales
will be dedicated to the scholarship fund of the English Speaking Friends of
TAU. Kasztner’s daughter Zsuzsi, who continues to defend his reputation, will
address the audience prior to the screening.
■ LONGTIME SUPPORTER of the
Hebrew University Daniel Jacobson has established a NIS 1 million scholarship
fund for outstanding students of Hebrew literature who do not have the funds to
pay for their university tuition. A Tel Aviv based lawyer, Jacobson has been
involved with the Hebrew University for decades and is both an honorary fellow
of the university and a member of its board of governors.
At the ceremony
at which the scholarship fund was announced, Jacobson said that Hebrew
literature has always been dear to his heart and that he hopes the scholarship
fund will encourage more people to feel about it as he does.
An expert in
international law and a philanthropist whose generosity is not limited to the
Hebrew University alone, Jacobson is the grandson of Jacob Zalman Levontin, who
was one of the founders of Rishon Lezion and who has a street in Tel Aviv named
after him. Levontin also established the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which later
became Bank Leumi.
■ IT'S BEEN a couple of years now since singer and
actress Ninet Tayeb shaved her head for a television commercial for
Although her hair is long now, the styling is still partially
crew cut. Her newest venture as far as product presentation is as the presenter
for Delta, one of Israel’s leading underwear manufacturers, and rumor has it
that she will collect a very tidy sum of money. Delta CEO Tzvika Schwimmer said
that he was very pleased to have Ninet on board because she is a one-of-akind
personality who radiates self confidence. The creative side of the Delta
advertising campaign is being handled by the Zarmon Goldman advertising and
public relations company, which in the past has been known for raunchy
presentations that have caused many a raised eyebrow.
writers who had hoped to have one or more of their works in the upcoming
anthology published by Ang-Lit Press had better put on their creative caps if
they have not yet written their submissions. This fourth anthology in the
Ang-Lit series that reflects life in Israel from a broad range of perspectives
is tentatively titled Israel Short Love Stories, although the stories do not
necessarily have to focus on romance. The plan is for the book to be published
at the beginning of 2013, in good time for the 65th anniversary of the state in
2014. As was the case with the previous three anthologies, this one will be
available at Israeli book stores and on Amazon. There will also be a Kindle
version. Anglo-Lit CEO Shelly Goldman says that she is constantly being
approached by people who have written a novel, but she is only interested in
publishing short stories. The cut-off date for submissions is April
30.Steve Linde contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org.
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