Saturday, January 23, 2010

Killing Kasztner

I have a habit, when my wife goes out of town, of selecting Netflix discs that I like to call "boy movies." My wife calls them my Hitler Channel movies, because as much as time goes by, the quantity and quality of films about that peculiar moment in history doesn't diminish; it seems to increase. A case in point at the Tropic Cinema they are showing a documentary (my wife hates documentaries so I scored two points with one movie) called "Killing Kasztner." It is a fascinating, impossible story of no human logic and dreadful inhumanity. I was riveted to my seat.There is, it seems a well known documentary film maker called Gaylen Ross who decided to discover what she could about the life and death of a Hungarian Jew known as Israel Reszo Kasztner. He emigrated to Israel after the war and got a job with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion's government and was murdered in front of his house by a right wing Israeli terrorist called Ze'ev Eckstein, who was caught and sentenced to life in prison for the deed.

Ross interviews Eckstein, free these forty years, about the murder and he spills the beans. She interviews Kasztner's daughter and her daughters and they spill the beans. It is amazing stuff. But get this Krasztner saved more than 20,000 Jews from the Holocaust and he was branded a collaborator and hated by everyone. He got Adolf Eichmann to agree to save 1845 Jews and put them on a special train, Schindler style and they eventually got to Switzerland via a detour to the Bergen Belsen camp outside Berlin. Additionally Kasztner got SS Colonel Kurt Becher to agree to send 20,000 Hungarian Jews to Austria instead of Auschwitz and there they survived the war. Every single one of them. Yet Kasztner came out of the war loathed and labeled a collaborator. He was the only person to save any of the almost one million Jews in pre-war Hungary. One of the children seated in front in this picture, of the train en route to Switzerland is interviewed in the movie.

However the film reinforced my own prejudices against people in general, and the saying that no good deed goes unpunished is liberally illustrated here. Kasztner comes out of this amazing detective story as a true hero, unsung, unappreciated except by those he saved and not all of them even! There is an astonishing moment when a survivor dismisses Kasztner's efforts to save her own life, by blaming him for getting her sent, briefly to Bergen Belsen! This is an astounding movie.

Put it on your Netflix list. I think even my wife may be ready to see it. When we toured Auschwitz together she got enough Nazi anti semitism to put her off even discussing these things. But I think Kasztner's astonishing story piqued even her interest when I told her about it.

Lost Part I

I was driving north up Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine Key with a vague destination in mind somewhere around the Blue Hole possibly when I spotted a dirt road heading west.We parked at the baseball diamond (possibly the site for a planned dog park) and took off to check this road out. It had possibilities not least because it was unpaved. The other good news was that I could see no mail boxes at the side of the main road and there were no power lines, which told me there was no one living down here.I was enjoying a bright sunny day with alight wind out of the southeast and no humidity. Finally we were getting some proper winter weather, at 75 degrees (22C) no need for socks at last.I am noticing a lot of colors in the mangroves and I'm not sure why. I don't recall such glorious reds and oranges and yellows all at once in years past and I was wondering if perhaps our recent bout of cold weather had done more than kill off a great many fish. It was looking like New Hampshire in the fall (I'm told not ever having been to New England).It was perfect riot of colors though considering all the dead pine trees i trust the mangroves will recover from whatever is making them change colors all at once. You can't swing a cat in the back country around here without hitting some defunct household appliance abandoned to save the former owner $11 in fees at the dump.
Even the most crass vandal can't destroy the beauty of these places.
I did spot this sign buried deep in the bushes. I rather think they have probably given up hope of closing a sale...The colors were splendid, of leaves and sky:
The street, unnamed as far as I could tell, wound on most alluringly: And Cheyenne was busy doing her usual snuffling act:As rural as these places look they are never complete silent, there is almost always a backdrop of human activity depending on the direction of the wind. One can generally hear an engine or two on a roadway, or a plane overhead, or even a helicopter from time to time.
The black turkey vultures are silent and quite graceful as they crowd the air this time of year:I am of course no botanist (my perpetual disclaimer) but I seem to recall a bark beetle was responsible a few years ago for doing in many of the pine trees that give the island, the largest in the lower Keys, it's name:
And what nature doesn't trash humans will. What the point of this apparent bull dozing was, we'll never know:
The presence of a non native palm tree indicates possible human activity in the wilderness:And there it is, a roof line among the clump of trees:



No sign of any actual people, or roads yet. But we were only half way across at this stage.