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Kurt Becher strikes a deal with Israel Kastner


Kurt Becher the SS officer
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Back to the trial. I'm not sure that Kastner realized what it was that I understood. Basically he held the same rank as Eichmann, and was not aware of what was happening higher up. But he realized that it was possible to stop the transport of Hungarian Jews, if there would be a positive response, and he hoped that Brand would return. Brand did not return and the extermination continued until the final days. During the final days, at some point, Kastner came into contact with another Nazi. A Nazi called Kurt Becher appeared in Hungary, Besher in German. Kurt Becher was a high-ranking officer in the SS. He held a higher rank than Eichmann. Eichmann was a lieutenant colonel, and he was something like a colonel, perhaps even a brigadier general. He was in charge of the economic affairs of the SS. He was interested in the Jews of Hungary, not to send them to Auschwitz – that was of no interest to him – but in order to take their property, to confiscate the property of Hungarian Jews on behalf of the SS, not for himself, for the sake of the SS. Maybe even for himself, who knows? He was not an ardent Nazi like Adolf Eichmann, who was a fanatic, but a good bourgeois. I think he came from the city of Bremen, where there had been a wealthy and prominent middle-class of traders for many generations. He joined the SS, which was not simple in Germany. The SS were not interested in the 'rabble'. The rabble went to the SA, the storm troopers. The SS were looking for a higher calibre of people, and to ensure this they did something very simple: anyone who joined the SS was required to buy his own uniform. Uniforms were expensive and only wealthy people could afford them. And Kurt Becher went to the SS. Not just to the SS, but to the cavalry. That means he also bought the horse. He was one of the aristocrats of the SS, and they sent him to Hungary because the Hungarian Jews were very rich. It was one of the wealthiest Jewish communities. He had to collect their property and transfer it to the SS coffers. The SS was, in all respects, a state within a state.

חזרה למשפט: אני לא בטוח שקסטנר הבין את מה שאני הבנתי. בסך הכל הוא היה בדרג של אייכמן, ולא ידע מה נעשה למעלה. אבל הוא הבין שאפשר להפסיק את המשלוח של יהודי הונגריה, אם תבוא תשובה חיובית, וקיווה שברנד יחזור. ברנד לא חזר וההשמדה נמשכה עד לימים האחרונים. בימים האחרונים, באיזשהו שלב, קסטנר בא במגע עם נאצי אחר. הופיע בהונגריה נאצי בשם קורט בכר. בֶּשֶר בגרמנית. קורט בֶּכֶר היה קצין בכיר ב-אס.אס. יותר בכיר מאייכמן. אייכמן היה סגן אלוף, והוא היה משהו כמו אלוף משנה, אולי אפילו תת-אלוף. והוא היה ממונה על העניינים הכלכליים של ה-אס.אס. הוא התעניין ביהודי הונגריה, לא בשביל לשלוח אותם לאושוויץ, זה לא עניין אותו, אלא בשביל לקחת את הרכוש שלהם, להחרים את הרכוש של יהודי הונגריה למען האס.אס. לא בשביל עצמו, למען האס.אס. אולי גם בשביל עצמו, מי יודע? הוא לא היה נאצי שרוף כמו אייכמן, שהיה פנאטי, אלא בורגני טוב. אני חושב שמהעיר בְּרֵמֶן, ששמה יש בורגנות עשירה וגבוהה של סוחרים מדורי דורות. להצטרף לאס.אס. בגרמניה לא היה פשוט. האס.אס. לא היה מעוניין באספסוף. האספסוף הלך לאס.אַה., לפלוגות הסער. אס.אס. חיפשו אנשים ברמה יותר גבוהה ובשביל להבטיח את זה הם עשו דבר מאוד פשוט: כל מי שהתגייס לאס.אס. צריך היה לקנות לעצמו את המדים. המדים היו יקרים, ורק אנשים אמידים יכלו להרשות לעצמם. והוא, קורט בֶּכֶר הלך לאס.אס. לא סתם לאס.אס. לפלוגה הרכובה על סוסים. זאת אומרת שהוא גם קנה את הסוס. הוא היה מהאריסטוקרטיה של האס.אס. ושלחו אותו להונגריה, מפני שהיהודים ההונגרים היו עשירים מאוד. זאת הייתה קהילה יהודית עשירה שבעשירה. הוא היה צריך לאסוף את הרכוש שלהם ולהעביר אותו לקופת האס.אס. האס.אס. הייתה מדינה בתוך מדינה מכל הבחינות.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Kurt Andreas Ernst Becher, Rudolf Israel Kastner, Otto Adolf Eichmann, Rezső Kasztner, Joel Brand

Duration: 3 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017