Hannah Arendt and the Hungarian Jews

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The movie Hannah Arendt, now at New York’s Film Forum, is excellent.  See it. It makes reference to Eichmann and the Hungarian Jews.  I have previously written this in my book, “ Notebook of a Sixties Lawyer,” page 174.

In point of fact, members of the Zionist movement actively collaborated with Nazism from the beginning.  The World Zionist Organization sabotaged world Jewry’s attempt to boycott the Nazi economy in order to be allowed to send money from Germany to Palestine.  They fought against liberalization of U.S. immigration laws, for they wanted European Jews to go to Palestine, not America.  As Ralph Schoenman wrote in The Hidden History of Zionism, “This obsession with colonizing Palestine and overwhelming the Arabs led the Zionist movement to oppose any rescue of the Jews facing extermination, because the ability to deflect manpower to Palestine would be impeded.”
David Ben-Gurion summarized to a meeting of “left” Zionists in 1938 in England, “If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by  bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative.”
My cousin was one of several thousand Hungarian Jews who survived the fire:  800,000 died.  A pact was signed by Dr. Rudolph Kastner of the Jewish Agency Rescue Committee and Nazi exterminator Adolph Eichmann in 1944 allowing 600 prominent Jews to leave in exchange for Zionist silence on the fate of the remainder.
Malchiel Greenwald, an Hungarian survivor, exposed the deal and was sued by the Israeli government, whose leaders at the time had actually drawn up the terms of the pact.  Greenwald won.  The Israeli court concluded, “The sacrifice of the majority of Hungarian Jews, in order to rescue the prominents (and send them to colonize Palestine) was the basic element in the agreement between Kastner and the Nazis…In addition to its Extermination Department and Looting Department, the Nazi S.S. opened a Rescue Department headed by Kastner.” 
Judgement given on June 22, 1955, Protocol of Criminal Case 124/53 in District Court, Jerusalem.   Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s organization proposed on Janurary 11, 1941, a formal military pact between his Irgun –a Zionist military organization–and the Third Reich.  In offering to enter the war on the side of Germany, the Irgun proposed that, “The establishment of the historical Jewish State on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East.”  (see Lenni Brenner, “Zionism in the Age of the Dictators“, p. 49)
My cousin escaped Budapest and settled in Jaffa, a former Palestinian city south of Tel Aviv.  His name was Carl Oppenheim. He was not an important person and not part of the deal.
I saw him and his son in 1959 in a two room place in what was formerly the Arab quarter. He begged me for $$$ to buy a fridge and was selling silver trinkets to get by. His son was wearing an old shirt of mine that my grandmother had sent in a care package. His son would later be the last soldier to die in the 1967 war. Carl’s brother Anti was a communist and was picked up early for that reason, in 1940 or so. He escaped the labor camp they put him in and fought with the Partisans in the woods throughout the war. He is an historical figure in Hungary. His son Vili, also a communist, is a lawyer, my age.
Last week, the mass graves of 200 Palestinians who evidently died in Jaffa during the Nakba were discovered.

We have run several pieces on the new film about Hannah Arendt. Here is one, and another and another. A substantial portion of the above post first appeared in Smith’s memoir, published by Smyrna Press in 1992.

About Michael Smith

Michael S. Smith is a lawyer, author and radio host. He can be heard on "Law and Disorder." http://lawanddisorder.org/

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