The Gold Train
The last word about the fate of the Hungarian Jewry is still waiting. We still would like to understand the Holocaust enigma: How the Nazis and their Hungarian people and government managed to murder 444,000 Hungarian Jews from July 1944 under the nose of the allies, under the nose of the Jewish and the Zionist leadership. We are waiting for the Hungarian nation act of forgiveness.
We are waiting for a national awareness act so the Hungarians will fully confess to their role in the "final solution" in Hungary.
Ronald W. Zweigan, Israeli scholar of Tel Aviv University, decided to research the issue of the looting of the Hungarian Jews. He wrote: The Gold Train - The Destruction of Jews and the Looting of Hungary (William Morrow, NYC 2002).
In this book he wrote: "I met Gabriel Schillinger in the archives five years ago, reading the same files that 1 had been working on for months. His interest in the Gold Train was very personal. In 1944, when he was 17, his parents had been among 437,000 Hungarian Jews deported to Auschwitz. Fifty years later he was trying to find out what had happened to their possessions. I asked if he was looking for restitution, but he dismissed that immediately. He said he simply wanted to know what had happened to his parents" wedding rings. The story of the Hungarian Holocaust is well known. But the fate of the moveable personal property of the Jews of Hungary (the jewelry, tableware, Persian carpets, cameras and so on - the artifacts of central European bourgeois life, the family possessions of hundreds of thousands) was a mystery."
Prof. Zweig reconstructed an amazing saga from fragmentary documentation. The Gold Train is an account of a special Nazi episode of robbery of Jewish victims. It is also a story of injustice to Jewish survivors who have the right to reclaim their stolen property, their gold. Some of the revelations of the Gold Train:
Decoy: the most valuable items were never placed on the train. In fact, the train was probably just a decoy. Before the train left Hungarian territory on the night of March 30, 1945, a convoy of heavy trucks took over 40 crates of gold, diamonds and jewelry into Austria. This convoy was lead by the "Commissioner for Jewish Affairs" of the Hungarian fascist government, and the convoy departed into Austria in complete secrecy. The Hungarian guards of the train thought the precious victim loot was in their control, but in fact the train carried mainly bulk items of silverware and valuable carpets. The gold and diamonds were onboard the trucks, and they headed directly to Switzerland.
Buried treasure: The chaos of war, a sudden late snowfall at a crucial mountain pass, and the unwillingness of the Swiss authorities (who discovered scruples at the very end of the war) to allow them across the border forced the Hungarian fascists in charge of the truck convoy to bury the crates in Austrian farming villages throughout the Tyrol.
Broken promises: the French Army occupied this area, and they eventually uncovered most, but not all of the victim loot. In 1948 they returned it to the postwar communist Hungarian government who promised to return it to the surviving Jews in Hungary. But they never did.
Intercepted: One week after the end of the war on May 15, 1945, the bulk silverware and valuable carpets were discovered on board the train, trapped by Allied bombing in the Tyrolean Alps between Salzburg and Innsbruck.
Fame: the "Hungarian Gold Train" quickly became famous as one of the more spectacular hoards of Nazi loot uncovered in Germany and Austria. The contents of the Gold Train were placed in an American military warehouse in Salzburg, where they remained for over two years.
Missing: the really valuable items were gone (see above). The contents of the warehouse came nowhere near the fabulous wealth that was supposed to be on the Gold Train. The focus now shifted to the American Army. Until today, the US Army is accused of stealing huge amounts of victim loot. (Presidential Commission of Inquiry in 1999 and the current litigation in Florida.)
Fate: the book concludes with a study of the diplomatic and politics conflicts concerning the fate of the victim loot, and comments on the likely fate of the missing valuables.
"Schillinger, who had emigrated to Israel in 1945, died just before the French archives were opened to me, and before I could answer his question on the fate of his parents" wedding rings. The American army uncovered 40,000 gold wedding rings, which were melted down, with the proceeds going to refugee causes. The French also uncovered many wedding rings, and their files contain a photo of two boxes full. 1 would like to think that Gabriel"s parents" rings are among them."
The issue became very sensitive because a special commission recently concluded that the Americans who came across the train behaved in a negligent way and even helped themselves. The New York Times reported that even a General, Harry J. Collins, "helped himself to the wealth of Hungarian Jews." Many items such as clocks, jewelry and furs, and other stolen Jewish Hungarian goods were sold to the American soldiers.
So Jews were victims of looting by Nazis, Hungarian fascists and... Americans. The issue of restitution compensation and reparations is very important today. We must correct the injustice. It should be noted that the Gold Train was a response of a group of Fascists to the advancing of the Soviet Army to Budapest. The Gold Train carried valuable items such as gold, gems, cash, carpets, fur, and many personal items such as wedding rings. This was a cargo of hundreds of millions of dollars worth. Today, we know that this cargo was never returned to its owners who were murdered in the gas chambers, or even to their surviving heirs.
Prof. Zweig, a Holocaust expert, wrote books such as German Reparation and the Jewish World. He provided the reader with a detailed documentation of the Gold Train.
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