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Shmuel Tamir

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5040 | Film ID: 3396, 3397, 3398, 3399

Shmuel Tamir represented the defendant in the Kasztner libel trial in Israel He speaks passionately about the virtues of Rabbi Weissmandel and the perfidy of Rudolf Kasztner.

FILM ID 3396 -- Camera Rolls #1-3 -- 01:00:05 to 01:33:41
CR 1 01:00:05 - 01:11:16
Shmuel Tamir sits at a wooden table in front of a striped curtain with several books on the table in front of him. Lanzmann says that one of the main protagonists of his film is Rabbi Weissmandel. He asks Tamir to explain how he met Weissmandel and what his impressions were. Tamir says that in the course of the Kasztner trial he came across a heartbreaking document (he thinks he obtained it from Joel Brand) that turned out to have been written by Weissmandel, in which he accused the Jews who were not living in Europe of ignoring what was happening there. Tamir was impressed with the document and found out more about Weissmandel: that he had escaped a train heading toward Auschwitz, leaving his wife and family on the train, and that he had eventually established a Yeshiva in Mount Kisco, NY. Tamir wanted to meet Weissmandel, and did so in January 1956, in Mount Kisco. Weissmandel knew that Tamir was there seeking information to use in the Kasztner trial but he didn't want to cooperate because of his opposition to Zionism. Eventually Tamir became more aggressive in his demands for information and Weissmandel began to open up, although he refused outright to go to Jerusalem.

CR 2 01:11:21 - 01:22:27
Tamir is now looking at a book as he sits at the table. There is a brief shot of Lanzmann standing next to him and looking over his shoulder. Lanzmann's voice, off camera, instructs Tamir not to look at the camera but instead to look at the book until he tells him to start speaking. Weissmandel showed Tamir several letters and other documents that he had sent from Slovakia to the Allied nations during the war. Tamir says that these documents contained facts and "atmosphere" that, taken together, were extremely important as testimony. Weissmandel refused to let Tamir take the documents to use in Israel. Tamir greatly admired Weissmandel, although they were from different worlds. Another rabbi gave Tamir copies of the documents three hours before he was to return to Israel. Tamir reads, from the book in front of him, Weissmandel's accusation against those who did not help during the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz and his demand that the rail lines to Auschwitz be bombed. Tamir says that Weissmandel later gave him some tips about how to conduct the trial (the Kasztner trial was over but had been appealed).

CR 3 01:22:33 - 01:33:41
Lanzmann asks Tamir if he and Weissmandel discussed Kasztner specifically. Tamir says that Weissmandel was critical of Kasztner, even though he was taken to the Swiss border with Kasztner and Hermann Krumey, Eichmann's deputy. Tamir further states that this trip was taken in order to save Krumey. Tamir is of the opinion that Kasztner became enthralled with the power he held as a collaborator with the Nazis. He says that he suggested at the trial the Kasztner's "soul was burned at Auschwitz." Weissmandel told Tamir that Kasztner's reason for "collaborating" was money. Lanzmann clarifies that he is asking about Weissmandel's opinion of Kasztner because Weissmandel was the first one in Slovakia to use money to try and bribe the Germans, and he advised Kasztner and the others in the Aid and Rescue Committee (Vaada). Tamir says that of course Weissmandel believed in using money to save Jews, and that he himself does not believe that one can sit safely in the present moment and judge those who were operating in "the depths of hell", but that in the wide spectrum of behavior between the resistance movements and full-fledged collaboration, Kasztner crossed the line. He says he would be very hesitant to judge, for example, members of various Judenrats, but that by 1945 Kasztner had become "an integral part of the last remnants of the loyal SS."

FILM ID 3397 -- Camera Rolls #4-6 -- 02:00:05 to 02:33:31
CR 4 02:00:05 - 02:11:14
Tamir continues talking about Kasztner, saying that Kasztner was not a member of a Judenrat, and that the Kasztner affair was a unique case. Tamir points out that Kasztner made a statement on behalf of [Kurt] Becher after the war, and tried to help Krumey and Dieter Wisliceny. Tamir says that Kasztner became somehow identified with the SS and that his identity became twisted. Lanzmann reads a couple of quotations from Kasztner's writing. Tamir says that Kasztner should have warned the Jews of their fate. Lanzmann begins to tell Tamir that those who defend Kasztner say that he tried to warn people by sending members of the Halutzim youth movement into the ghettos.

CR 5 02:11:17 - 02:22:23
Lanzmann repeats his statement about the Halutzim being sent into the ghettos, and says that Kasztner's defenders also say that warning people was pointless because they would not have wanted to believe what was happening. Tamir says that these two arguments are contradictory, and that it was in the interests of the privileged, including Kasztner, not to warn the masses, so that the privileged few would be saved. He describes this as the "satanic gimmick of Eichmann, with which Kasztner collaborated." Tamir says there were all sorts of rumors about how close the relationship was between Kasztner and the SS leaders with whom he associated at the very end of the war. Lanzmann says that Kasztner selected mostly Zionists to be saved from Kolozsvar (Cluj) but Tamir disagrees with him and says that he selected leaders, among whom were Zionists, religious Jews, and others.

CR 6 02:22:28 - 02:33:31
CU on Tamir's face as he listens intently to Lanzmann's question about whether since it was impossible to save everyone, wasn't it natural for Kasztner to choose to save members of his family and those who were part of his circle, including Zionists. Lanzmann says further that Zionists saw themselves as the redeemers of the Jews, and so it would be natural to want to save those who could redeem. Tamir says that he says of course it was natural for Kasztner to want to save his family, but not at the price of collaboration. He says further that he disagreed strongly with Kasztner's lawyer when he said that those who were murdered had no spirit left and compared them to the masses in Warsaw. Tamir says that in his opinion, and here he disagreed with Weissmandel, Zionism was never meant to save the few at the price of the many.

FILM ID 3398 -- Camera Rolls #7-8 -- 03:00:05 to 03:20:10
CR 7 03:00:05 - 03:11:19
Tamir continues talking about Zionism and says that the Kasztner case is antithetical to Zionist activitiy. Lanzmann says that Chaim Cohen's (Kaztner's lawyer) attitude was not unique, and quotes Yitzhak Gruenbaum, head of the rescue committee in Palestine, as saying that the choice was to use money to rescue European Jews or to buy cows for the people of Palestine, he would choose the cow. Tamir says he doesn't think this quote is accurate but says he disagrees with this attitude. He says that the rest of the world acquiesced in the murder of the Jews, and that England and the US cooperated indirectly with the Germans by refusing to bomb the Auschwitz crematoria. Lanzmann asks Tamir what he remembers of this time. Tamir mentions the sinking of the Struma, a direct result of British policy, which was one of the things that drove him to take up the fight against the British.

CR 8 03:11:33 - 03:20:10 Quick shot of Lanzmann before the camera pans back over to Tamir. Tamir says that paradoxically and tragically, the British, who fought the Nazis, also prevented the Jews from being saved. Lanzmann asks him whether he and others felt helpless to save the Jews of Europe, and Tamir mentions some rescue attempts that were made. He says that not everyone was made aware of what was going on, and that this was a mistake. He also says that the Jewish mistakes pale in comparison to the mistakes made by those in the rest of the world. Tamir says that he saw nothing wrong with trying to save Jews with money or any other means, and that Weissmandel never came close to crossing the line that Kasztner crossed. Weissmandel asked that leaflets be dropped on Hungary to inform the Jews that they were doomed, in contrast to Kasztner's attempts to keep the extermination quiet. He repeats that Kasztner's soul was burned in Auschwitz. He gathers up his books and remains seated for several seconds.

FILM ID 3399 -- Camera Rolls #8A,8B,9A,9B -- 04:00:00 to 04:05:43
Claude Lanzmann seated at a table, taking notes and listening to Tamir. He lights a cigarette, nods his head, and speaks occasionally (no sound).

Event:  September or October 1979
Production:  1985
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:33
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