The riveting, never-before-told story of one of World War II's most compelling and unresolved mysteries -- the disappearance of the loot on the Hungarian Gold Train
In 1944, with the Red Army rapidly closing in, an extraordinary group of fascist ideologues, thieves, civil servants and soldiers jumped onto the "Gold Train" in Budapest and headed west. On that train was carriage after carriage of loot -- gold, gems, cash, furs, carpets -- gleaned from one of the century's most terrible crimes.
The destruction of the Hungarian Jews happened late in the war and with a unique bureaucratic efficiency. The officials who meticulously stripped the Jews of their jewelry, gold, silver, furnishings and other possessions before their murder believed that the stolen belongings of exterminated citizens were a major Hungarian state asset and at all costs were to be protected from the advancing Allies.
The great Gold Train and the value of its cargo took on a legendary quality even as it steamed out of the station -- hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of assets were on the move, with cunning, desperate or gullible passengers trying to reach an illusory Nazi stronghold in the Alps. The fate of this property has been the subject of fantastic rumors ever since the end of the war and was the basis of a Cold War dispute between east and west. Ronald Zweig's gripping book, The Gold Train, illuminates what happened to the train and explores its journey, which goes on to this day, as legal battles continue over its contents.
Drawing on a decade's worth of research into American, Israeli and European archives as well as private papers, eyewitness accounts and other sources, Zweig tells the full story of the Gold Train. He reveals the large cast of players enmeshed in the drama, including corrupt Hungarian and German Nazis, American and French armies, Jewish leaders from Hungary and Palestine, French security forces and international refugee organizations. He examines the myths that have developed around it and places this incredible event within the annals of Holocaust and Cold War history, including its impact on restitution policies through the postwar years to today.
An astonishing tale of espionage, betrayal, greed, secrecy and depravity, The Gold Train is real history that rivals the best of John le Carré, Robert Harris and Alan Furst.
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Ronald W. Zweig is a senior lecturer in modern Jewish history at Tel Aviv University. For eighteen years he was editor of the Journal of Israeli History, and is a member of the Historical Advisory Panel on Holocaust Era Records to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The author of two books, Britain and Palestine During the Second World War and German Reparations and the Jewish World, he lives in Jerusalem.From Publishers Weekly:
The fabulous "gold train" of Budapest, filled with treasures stolen from Hungarian Jews, has long been a legend of WWII. More recently, it's been the subject of several lawsuits filed by concentration camp survivors. But the real history of the gold train has remained obscure, a situation Zweig corrects in this precise and sober-minded study. In late 1944, Zweig writes, as the Russian army was approaching Budapest, the Hungarian government (a puppet Nazi state) decided to evacuate the loot it had confiscated from its Jewish citizens. The treasure, worth approximately $50 million-$120 million in 1944 dollars, was secretly loaded onto a train and sent on a tortured four-month odyssey westward from the capital. At various points, the treasure was hidden in a castle, a bathhouse and in deep coal mines. In mid-1945, the train was captured by Allied troops, but the drama, Zweig shows, was only beginning. For years, the fate of the gold was subject to the political maneuverings and bickering of the Allies. Eventually, the U.S. gave its portion to Jewish relief organizations, which then transferred much of the funds to the Zionist movement in Palestine; the French returned its portion to the Hungarian government. Almost none of the surviving Jews who lost their property ever saw it returned. Zweig, a historian at Tel Aviv University, does an admirable job of untangling a complicated story and sorting fact from fiction in this fascinating subplot in the vast, tragic narrative of
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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