In 1944 Rudolf Kastner made a deal with Adolf Eichmann to save 1685 Jews from deportations to Auschwitz, which led to one of the most contentious trials in Israel’s history in 1954. Kastner, a civil servant at the time sued one Michael Gruenwald for defamation, after Kastner was accused of being a collaborator due to his contentious deal. The claims that he saved those close to him from his hometown in Cluj, and the fact he allegedly did not warn Hungarian Jewry from their imminent deportation to Auschwitz led to the head judge Benjamin Halevi to proclaim that he had “sold his soul to the devil.” This thesis analyzes the means by which the stories of individuals from the Cluj ghetto, Kastner’s deal with Eichmann and eventually the trial and its political connections were narrowed down into the conceptual paradigm of the ‘victimhero,’ as well as its wider implications in connection to Israeli and Jewish identity. The conceptual frameworks of identity, the impact of memory, and trauma are essentially used as foundations in order to examine why Kastner was and is vilified. By examining this affair this thesis ascertains how that very process played into wider conceptual frameworks.
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Thesis advisor: Gerolymatos, Andre
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