Soon after the German Occupation of Hungary (March 19, 1944) the clandestine Jewish Rescue Committee, of which Kasztner was a leading member, learned from contacts in Slovakia that it was possible to "buy life" from the SS.
The first contact between the Vaada (rescue committee) and the SS took place on April 5, 1944. Dieter Wisliceny, the SS man in charge, offered to hold off deportations of hungarian Jewry if the Vaada would come up with two million dollars, of which the first two hundred thousand was to be paid promptly in Hungarian Pengös.
The prospect of saving Hungarian Jewry through ransom, odious as it appears, proved an alluring chance at beating the final solution to Kasztner and his associates.
In May 1944, Eichmann offered the Vaada the opportunity to save a million Hungarian Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks, reinforcing the possibility of rescue through ransom. As the war and negotiations between SS representatives and the Vaada unfolded it became clear that the ransom effort will far short of its ambitions of saving Hungarian Jewry. Indeed, even as the ransom negotiations proceeded deportations continued at the rate of 12,000 or more per day. At war's end, the ransom negotiations successfully saved 14,648 deportees from Bergen-Belsen. They also saved about 18,000 deportees who were placed "on ice" at the Strasshoff camp in Austria.
A number of historians have also credited Kasztner and the Vaada with saving the remnants of the Budapest ghetto and Kasztner in particular with saving the Jews who remained alive in places like Bergen-Belsen immediately at war's end.
Despite the many lives saved and the heroic efforts expended it was clear at war's end that the grand plan of saving Hungarian Jewry failed.
The record of Kasztner's heroism wa buried under the rubble of that failure.
The following pages give a timeline illustrating the unfolding of these events.