In obedience to Himmler's directive I now concentrated on negotiations with the Jewish political officials in Budapest. One man stood out among them, Dr. Rudolf Kastner, authorized representative of the Zionist movement. This Dr. Kastner was a young man about my age, an ice-cold lawyer and a fanatical Zionist. He agreed to help keep the Jews from resisting deportation and even keep order in the collection camps if I would close my eyes and let a few hundred or a few thousand young Jews emigrate illegally to Palestine. It was a good bargain. For keeping order in the camps, the price of 15,000 to 20,000 Jews - in the end there may have been more - was not too high for me.
Except perhaps for the first few sessions, Kastner never came to me fearful of the Gestapo strong man. We negotiated entirely as equals. People forget that. We were political opponents trying to arrive at a settlement, and we trusted each other perfectly. When he was with me, Kastner smoked cigarets as though he were in a coffeehouse. While we talked he would smoke one aromatic cigaret after another, taking them from a silver case and lighting them with a little silver lighter. With his great polish and reserve he would have made an ideal Gestapo officer himself.
Dr. Kastner's main concern was to make it possible for a select group of Hungarian Jews to emigrate to Israel. But the Arrow Cross, the Hungarian fascist party, had grown strong and stubborn. Its inspectors permitted no exceptions to the mass deportations. So the Jewish officials turned to the German occupation authorities. They realized that we were specialists who had learned about Jewish affairs through years of practice.
June 17, 1998