MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) speaks at New York Reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El's Yom Hashoa ceremony.
(photo credit: GILI GETZ)
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said she learned from her grandfather, Rudolph Kastner, to take action and not be a victim, in her remarks at New York Reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El’s Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day ceremony on Sunday.
Remarking on a recent comment by former London mayor Ken Livingstone saying that Hitler was a Zionist, which led to his suspension, Michaeli said: “There will always be those who will try to downgrade the tragedy and atrocity of the Holocaust. There will always be those who will try to abuse it for political needs, as Ken Livingstone painfully reminded us this week.”
However, Michaeli added: “That doesn’t make Israel a victim. It means that Israel must be even more committed to fighting hate and racism, and accepting others.”
Michaeli opened her speech by pointing out that she is the granddaughter of Rudolph Kastner, an early example of what she called abusing the memory of Holocaust, whose legacy is still controversial nearly 60 years after his assassination.
Kastner, a leader of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee to help Jewish refugees in WWII, paid senior SS officer Adolf Eichmann – later executed by Israel – money, gold and diamonds to allow 1,684 Jews to leave Hungary for Switzerland. After an Israeli journalist self-published a pamphlet accusing Kastner, then spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, of collaborating with the Nazis and agreeing not to warn the Jews he couldn’t save that they would be sent to death camps, the government sued for libel on his behalf.
In 1955, a judge determined that Kastner “sold his soul to the devil,” leading to the collapse of then-prime minister Moshe Sharett’s government. Two years later, Kastner was assassinated, and 10 months after that, the Supreme Court overturned most of the lower courts’ decision against Kastner, saying the judge “erred seriously” and Kastner was motivated by trying to save as many Hungarian Jews as he could and was not a Nazi collaborator.
Michaeli said the lesson she learned from Kastner “doing the inconceivable thing of negotiating with Eichmann and other Nazi officers...is not to be a victim...It is a personal motto for me...It must also be true for the State of Israel.”
“[Kastner] had a rare opportunity during the war that was not possible for many others, but he took it. Even when he was cast into the role of the ultimate victim – Jew versus exterminator-in-chief – he managed to take his fate and that of his community into his own hands, and in the most constructive possible way,” Michaeli said.