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The colonel the Nazis and the 300mThe Gold Trainby Ronald ZweigAllen Lane 20 pp336The story itself crudely encapsulated seems made for Hollywood recycling Indeed John Frankenheimer and Burt Lancaster more or less did that four decades ago But The Train of Frankenheimers imagination was stuffed with art treasures and heroic resistance leaders heading for freedom One in the eye for Hitler The Gold Train a train of thought and grisly reality sits in Austrian tunnels and Hungarian sidings for many non-cinematic weeks on endThere is a fortune supposedly worth 300 million on the way to Berchtesgaden or Zurich or somewhere looted from Hungarian Jews by Magyar fellow-travellers and crooks Tens of thousands of those Jews are dead Their blood-stained gold teeth are stacked in crates But where is the triumph of good over evil that would make a good movie Villain number one - the Nazi intelligence supremo in Budapest - becomes headmaster of a boarding school for rich boys and dies in requisite affluence as recently as 1999 Villain number two has not been heard from for 45 years though there is nothing to suggest that those years proved anything less than entirely comfortable since he proved a dab hand at stashing awayAnd the 300 million or more Little by little through years of argument and pursuit and futility it dwindles into insignificance So much of the cash goes - eventually - to help the survivors of the Holocaust and the birth of Israel So what does the pivotal American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee get in the end It gets 618000 - 12 per cent of its 1949 budget enough working capital to last four daysRonald Zweig a history lecturer at Tel Aviv University has a monumental theme to develop here a tale of brutality and corruption doused in a warm bath of myth-making The train run by Colonel Arpad Toldi Commissioner for Jewish Affairs in the fascist government of Ferenc Szalasi which disintegrated
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