Journalist, lawyer, and Zionist leader in Romania and Hungary (b. Kolozsvár, Hungary, 1906; d. Tel Aviv, 1957). An attorney by training, he was the editor of the Hungarian-Jewish newspaper Uj Kelet (New East) from 1925 to 1940. In 1942 he became involved in attempts to rescue Jewish refugees from Slovakia and Poland. He carried on negotiations with the Hungarian authorities and political leaders and, after the capture of Hungary by the Nazis (March, 1944), with the staff of the Chief of the Reich Central Security Office - Kurt Becher, Dieter Wisliceny, and Adolf Eichmann - who had come to Hungary to effect a 'final solution' to the Jewish problem. An agreement was reached to spare Jewish lives and permit the emigration of Jews to Palestine and elsewhere in exchange for large quantities of war material to be purchased in neutral countries by Jewish organisations and delivered to the Germans.
One positive consequence of these negotiations was the rescue of 1,686 Jews from Hungary, many of them from Kasztner's birthplace, who, having been taken to Bergen-Belsen, were eventually transferred to Switzerland.
After the war, Kasztner settled in Israel, where he became a government employee. In 1953 the journalist Malkiel Grünwald published an article accusing Kasztner of collaboration with the Nazis and of activities leading to the destruction of Hungarian Jewry. He also alleged that Kasztner's testimony before an international court had helped free former SS officer Kurt Becher. In a trial which aroused heated public opinion in Israel and other countries, Kasztner accused Grünwald of slander, but the court decision of June, 1955, upheld most of Grünwald's allegations. In March, 1957, Kasztner was shot to death by a Tel Aviv youth. The Supreme Court in Jerusalem subsequently reversed the lower court's decision.
(written by J. Marton)