Hungarian Jews Convention, Israel, 1947
Workers Party of Eretz Israel
Hungarian Immigrant Club
On Saturday 27.12.47 at 10am in the Beiteinu Hall (HaChalutz Street)
Meeting of Hungarian Immigrants
Towards the Hebrew State
Dr. Israel Kastner – (former head of the Relief & Rescue Committee in Hungary during the war years)
Dr. Moshe Schweiger (member of the editorial board of Davar)
Hillel Danzig – (member of Ichud Olami)
This poster, written in Hebrew and Hungarian, advertises a meeting of Hungarian immigrants associated with Mapai, the Workers Party of the Land of Israel. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the future of the Hebrew State. The poster highlights the names of the three speakers who were all immigrants from Hungary: Israel Kastner, a politician in the Mapai party, Moshe Schweiger, a member of the editorial board of the socialist newspaper Davar, and Hillel Danzig, a representative of the Ichud Olami socialist party. The meeting was held on a Saturday morning at the end of December 1947, after the UN vote but before the declaration of the State of Israel.
The Workers Party of the Land of Israel (Mapai or the Labour party) was established in 1930 and had a very central role in the politics of Israel both during the British Mandate period and the early years of the state. This poster refers to a meeting planned by the Hungarian branch of Mapai to discuss the future of what they termed “the Hebrew state,” maybe due to the fact that the state had not yet been established and its official name was not clear.
Rudolph (Israel) Kastner was a Zionist leader already in Hungary. When World War II broke out, he established a centre to help Jewish refugees escape from the Nazis. When the Nazis invaded Hungary, Kastner negotiated with them to save Hungarian Jews. The original plan had been to exchange 10,000 Jews for money, gold and diamonds, but ultimately Kastner managed to save only 1,684 Jews who were transported by train to Switzerland via Bergen-Belsen. Kastner eventually moved to Israel and became a member of parliament for the Mapai Party. In 1953, Kastner was accused of collaborating with the Nazis and selecting associates, family, and wealthy Jews to be included in what became known as the “Kastner Train.” The court case ended in 1955 when the judge decided that Kastner had in fact “sold his soul to the devil.” The Israeli government decided to appeal on Kastner’s behalf, an action that led to the collapse of the government. The Supreme Court overturned most of the judgement against Kastner in 1958, and in his summary Judge Shimon Agranat stated: “Kastner will be judged by history, not by a court.” However, this came too late for Kastner who was assassinated on March 4, 1957 in Tel Aviv.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish population of Hungary numbered around 825,000; after the war, only 140,000 remained, many of whom left Hungary, immigrating to Israel and other Western countries. Among the Hungarian immigrants to Israel many – for example, Yisrael Kastner, Yosef Lapid, Ephraim Kishon, Moshe Zanbar, and Dosh – became leading figures in fields such as politics, journalism, literature and the arts, industry, and the economy.
This poster can be used in Israel Studies and Jewish History lessons when discussing the interim period between the UN vote and the declaration of the State of Israel. It can also be used when learning about Hungarian Jewry and introducing the story of Rudolf Kastner. It can also be used when discussing the immigration and absorption of Jews from the Diaspora into Israeli society prior to establishment of the state.
Politics teachers can use this resource when discussing socialism and the Mapai party.
What is this?
What is it advertising?
When and where was this event taking place?
What languages can you identify?
Who was the intended audience?
Reading Between the Lines
The poster was aimed at Hungarian immigrants to Israel.
When did they arrive in Israel, and why did they leave Hungary?
What kind of ideas might have been discussed at this meeting?
Why do you think this meeting was held only for Hungarian Jews?
Why did they call Israel the “Hebrew State” and not the Jewish State or the State of Israel?
Kastner was faced with a very difficult dilemma during the Holocaust.
Search online for information about Rudolph (Israel) Kastner.
What was his dilemma? What did he do? What happened to him later in Israel as a result of his actions?
This meeting was held by the Hungarian branch of the Workers Party of the Land of Israel (Mapai).
What was their ideology?
Who was their leader?
What was their role in the politics of Israel during the British Mandate period and the early years of the state?
Have you ever met any immigrants?
Were any members of your family immigrants?
How do they juggle their old identity with their new one?
What do you think about the Kastner affair?
Do you believe, as Judge Benjamin Halevi said, that Kastner “sold his soul to the devil”?
Did he have a choice?
Should he have been brought to trial, or do you agree with the judge that only history can judge him.
How, in your opinion, should history judge Kastner?
Imagine you are a journalist attending this meeting.
Write a short article describing what you witnessed at the meeting.
Describe the people who attended.
What were the main issues discussed?
Were there disagreements?
Research more about the Kastner affair and then organise a mock trial of Kastner.