The Kasztner "rescue" train was a transport of 1,685 Jews that was allowed to leave Budapest on June 30, 1944. Its purported destination was Spain, but in fact the transport was sent to a satellite camp of the Bergen-Belsen transit and exchange camp, that came to known as the Ungarnlager (Hungarian camp). The idea of sending a train of Jews out of Hungary was first broached in the initial meeting between Joel Brand and Reszo Kasztner of the Hungarian Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee, and SS representative Dieter Wisliceny on April 5, 1944. Serious negotiations, however, commenced only in mid-May in the context of the mission of Joel Brand and Bundy Grosz to Turkey to negotiate the exchange of one million Jewish lives for 10,000 trucks from the Western powers. At this time Kasztner took over the negotiations with the SS. Adolf Eichmann was willing to subscribe to the rescue transport to demonstrate that the SS was sincere in its intentions to halt the deportations if the Brand mission was successful. In fact, however, the SS viewed the Brand mission as only a cover for its real purpose: to have Bundy Grosz (an agent of the German military intelligence and the Hungarian secret service) negotiate a separate peace with the West. Kasztner's purpose in pushing for the rescue transport seems to have been a desire to make a first breach in the German policy of total destruction of European Jewry that might set a precedent and ultimately lead to the halting of the murder machine. But Kasztner was under no illusion that the transport was anything but a high-risk venture. Passengers on the rescue transport were selected by a small committee headed by Otto Komoly, chairman of the Relief and Rescue Committee. The selection committee, which included Kasztner, sought people from all sectors of the Jewish population then residing in Hungary. Included among those selected were members of Kasztner's family and a contingent from his hometown of Cluj. Kasztner put members of his own family on the train to convince others that the gamble with the Nazis was worth the try. The SS required a ransom payment of $1,000 per passenger. As a result, a few families had to subsidize the majority of the passengers. The amount was paid in currency, gold, jewels and shares of stock that was collected by the Jewish committee and handed over to the SS in three suitcases. After departing Budapest on June 30, the train stopped near the Hungarian-Austrian border. At this point Eichmann made the decision to send the transport to Bergen-Belsen. The train next stopped in Linz, where the passengers were offloaded briefly to take showers. On July 8 the transport arrived in Bergen-Belsen. In the Ungarnlager the passengers of the Kasztner train lived a relatively protected existence compared to prisoners in regular concentration camps. They were allowed to wear their own clothes and were not subjected to the same harsh living conditions and grueling forced labor. Eventually all the members of the transport made it to safety in Switzerland: 318 were released on August 21, 1944, and the rest in December of that year.
[Source: Bauer, Yehuda. "Jews for Sale? Nazi-jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945." Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 196-200; Laqueur, Walter (ed.) "The Holocaust Encyclopedia." Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 380-381.]
Judy Jacobs (born Judit Gondos) is the only child of Bela and Anna Ilona Gondos. She was born April 27, 1937 in Budapest, where her father was a physician and her mother, an interior designer. Bela came from an orthodox family, and as an adult became a member of a Zionist organization. Anna came from an assimilated family. Around 1942 Bela was conscripted for the Hungarian Labor Service. His forced departure from his practice resulted in the family's loss of almost all its income. Within a few months of the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, the Jews of Budapest were forced to move to specially designated Yellow Star apartment houses that were scattered around the city. The Gondos' happened to live in a building that was so designated, and several of their relatives soon moved in with them. In June 1944 the Gondos' were one of the families selected by the Jewish Rescue Committee to leave Hungary on the Kasztner rescue train. They departed from the Eastern railway station in Budapest on June 30, thinking they were bound for neutral Spain or Portugal. Instead they were taken to Bergen-Belsen, which was then still largely a detention camp for persons designated for exchange with German nationals in Allied countries. The Gondos were placed with the rest of the transport in the Ungarnlager (Hungarian camp). Here the prisoners wore their own clothing but were forced to display the Jewish badge. They were finally released in December 1944 and taken to Switzerland with the assistance of the International Red Cross. The Gondos settled in Zurich, where Bela worked as a volunteer radiologist at the university, and Anna cleaned vegetables at the Canton hospital. Judit attended a boarding school. From Zurich, the family moved to Geneva, where they remained until immigrating to the U.S. in the fall of 1946. They sailed aboard an empty coal vessel called the SS Mathew O'Brien that departed from Genoa. The Gondos eventually settled in Brookline, MA.