Joel Brand

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Joel Brand
Born (1906-04-25)25 April 1906
Naszod, Siebenbuergen (Transylvania) (now Năsăud, Romania)[1]
Died 13 July 1964(1964-07-13) (aged 58)
Bad Kissingen, Germany[2]
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Tel Aviv, Israel
Known for "Blood for goods" proposal
Spouse(s) Haynalka "Hansi" Brand (née Hartmann)

Joel Brand (25 April 1906 – 13 July 1964) was a rescue worker, born in Transylvania but raised in Germany, who became known during the Holocaust for his efforts to save Hungary's Jews from deportation to Auschwitz, after the German invasion of that country in March 1944.[3]

A leading member of Budapest's Aid and Rescue Committee, which smuggled Jews out of occupied Europe, Brand was approached in April 1944 by Adolf Eichmann, the German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer in charge of the deportations. Eichmann proposed that Brand broker a deal between the SS and the United States or Britain, in which the Nazis would exchange one million Jews for 10,000 trucks for the Eastern front and large quantities of tea and other goods. It was the most ambitious of a series of such deals between Nazi and Jewish leaders; the Nazis called it "Blut gegen Waren" ("blood for goods").[3]

Nothing came of the proposal, which The Times called one of the most loathsome stories of the war.[4] Historians believe that the SS, including its Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler, intended the negotiations as cover for peace talks with the Western Allies that would exclude the Soviet Union and perhaps Adolf Hitler. Whatever its purpose, the proposal was thwarted by the British government. The British arrested Brand in June 1944 in Turkey, where he had gone to propose Eichmann's offer, and put an end to it by leaking details to the media.[5]

The failure of the proposal, and the wider issue of why the Allies were unable to save the 435,000 Hungarian Jews deported to Auschwitz between May and July 1944, became the subject of bitter debate for many years. Brand told an interviewer shortly before his death in 1964: "An accident of life placed the fate of one million human beings on my shoulders. I eat and sleep and think only of them."[2]


Early life[edit]

Hungary; (below) German-occupied Europe, 1941–1942

Brand was born in Naszod, Siebenbuergen (Transylvania, then part of Austria-Hungary, now Năsăud, Romania), one of seven children. The family moved to Erfurt in Germany when Brand was four.[1] His mother was a banker's daughter from Naszod, and his father the founder of the telephone company in Budapest, Hungary.[6]

Brand attended technical school until 1923 and said he had completed his Abitur.[7] When he was 19 he went to stay with an uncle in New York, then worked his way across the United States, washing dishes and working on roads and in mines. He joined the Communist Party, worked for the Comintern as a sailor, and sailed to Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, China and South America. In or around 1930 he returned to Germany, where his father had founded another telephone company. Brand took a job with the company and became a Communist Party functionary in Thuringia.[8]

He was in Germany on 30 January 1933, when Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was sworn in as Chancellor. His Communist Party membership led to his arrest just before the Reichstag fire on 27 February that year; released in 1934, he settled in Budapest, where he worked again for his father's company.[8] He joined the Poale Zion, a Marxist-Zionist party, became a vice-president of the Budapest Palestine Office, which organized Jewish emigration to Palestine, and sat on the governing body of the Jewish National Fund.[9]

Aid and Rescue Committee[edit]

External images
Members of the Aid and Rescue Committee (from left): Moshe Schweiger, Bogyó Kasztner, Rezső Kasztner, Joel Brand
Hansi Brand, describing the blood-for-trucks proposal (video)
Hansi Brand with Oskar Schindler, mid-1960s, and (below) Rezső Kasztner

In 1935 Brand married Haynalka "Hansi" Hartmann (1912–2000) and together they opened a knitwear and glove factory on Rozsa Street, Budapest. It was a marriage of convenience, at least to begin with. They had met as members of a hachscharah, a group of Jews preparing to move to Palestine to work on a kibbutz. Brand's plans changed when his mother and three sisters fled to Budapest from Germany and he had to support them.[10]

Hansi Brand ran the factory, while Brand was supposed to sell the goods, but he was happier playing cards and meeting women; Ronald Florence writes that Brand could win in one night at poker what it took him to earn in a week of selling gloves.[11] The business was nevertheless successful, and after a few years had a staff of over 100.[12]

In July 1941 Hansi Brand's sister and brother-in-law were caught up in the Kamianets-Podilskyi deportations, when the Hungarian government sent 18,000 Jews to German-occupied Ukraine, because they were unable to prove they had Hungarian citizenship. Between 14,000 and 16,000 of them were shot by the SS. Brand paid a Hungarian counter-espionage officer, Joszi Krem, to bring his wife's relatives back safely.[9]

This marked the beginning of his involvement in smuggling Jews into Hungary from Poland, Slovakia and Yugoslavia.[13] Through the Poale Zion party, the Brands joined other Zionists engaged in rescue work, including Rezső Kasztner (1906–1957), also known as Rudolf or Israel Kastner, a lawyer and journalist from Kolozsvár (Cluj), and Ottó Komoly (1892–1945), an engineer. They decided to set up a formal group with Komoly as chairperson, and in January 1943 the Aid and Rescue Committee (Va'ada Ezra ve'Hatzalah, or Va'ada) was born. Other members included Samuel Springmann (a Polish jeweller whose family were in the Łódź ghetto), Sandor Offenbach, Andreas Biss (Brand's cousin), Dr. Miklos Schweiziger, Moshe Krausz, Eugen Frankel, and Ernő Szilágyi from the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair.[14]

The committee raised money, forged documents, maintained contacts with intelligence agencies and ran safe houses.[15] Brand testified during Adolf Eichmann's trial that they had helped 22,000–25,000 Jews reach Hungary between 1941 and the invasion in March 1944.[9] Following a visit to Budapest by Oskar Schindler (1908–1974) in November 1943, the committee learned from him that Jews could, in effect, be purchased from the Nazis. Schindler had been bribing Nazi officers to allow him to bring refugees into his factory in Poland and later Czechoslovakia, which he ran as a safe haven. This prompted the committee, after the invasion of Hungary, to try negotiating with the SS.[16]

March – May 1944[edit]

Invasion of Hungary[edit]

The Germans invaded Hungary on Sunday, 19 March 1944, meeting no resistance. There were around 800,000 Jews in the country at the time, following the annexation by Hungary in 1941 of parts of Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia: 725,007 Jews, 61,548 Jewish converts to Christianity, and others who counted as Jews by Nazi definition, according to Yehuda Bauer. Most were liberal Jews and fully assimilated, nearly 30 percent were Orthodox, and a small minority were Zionists.[17]

German tank in Budapest, October 1944

Restrictions on Jews were already in place before the invasion, including prohibiting marriage between Jews and Christians.[17] After the invasion, Randolph L. Braham writes, the Hungarian government immediately began the process of isolating Jews from the rest of the community. From 5 April Jews over the age of six had to wear a 3.8 x 3.8 inch (10 x 10 cm) yellow badge. They were forbidden from using telephones, travelling, owning cars or radios, or moving house, and had to declare the value of their property. Jewish civil servants, journalists and lawyers were sacked, non-Jews could not work in Jewish households. Books by Jews were removed from libraries and Jewish authors could no longer be published.[18]

Brand was hidden in a safe house by Josef Winniger, a courier for German military intelligence, who had been selling Brand information about Jewish refugees. Kasztner and Komoly also went into hiding.[19] The committee wanted to establish contact with the Germans, and offered a go-between $20,000 if he could arrange a meeting with SS Hauptsturmführer Dieter Wisliceny (1911–1948), one of Eichmann's assistants. Another rescue worker, Gisi Fleischmann (1894–1944, Auschwitz), had dealt with Wisliceny in Bratislava in 1942, when she and Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel (1903–1957) had paid him $20,000 to suspend the deportation of Jews from Slovakia. Whether the bribe was the reason for the suspension is debatable.[20] Fleischmann and Weissmandl's rescue group in Slovakia, the Working Group, devised a more ambitious proposal in November 1942. Known as the Europa plan or Grossplan, the aim was to bribe Nazi leaders with money from Jews overseas, primarily the United States, to stop the deportation of Jews to Poland. It came to nothing, reportedly because Heinrich Himmler put a stop to it.[21]

The Aid and Rescue Committee decided to ask Wislicency whether the SS were, as Kasztner wrote in a report, "prepared to negotiate with the illegal Jewish rescue committee on an economic basis about the moderation of the anti-Jewish measures."[22] Brand and Kasztner met Wislicency on 5 April. They told him they were in a position to continue Fleischmann's negotiations and could offer $2 million with a down payment of $200,000. They asked that there be no deportations, mass executions or pogroms in Hungary, no ghettos or camps, and that Jews who held certificates allowing them to emigrate to Palestine be allowed to do so. Wislicency accepted the $200,000, but added that $2 million might not be enough. He said there would be no deportations and no harm to the Jewish community while negotiations were ongoing.[23] He also arranged for Aid and Rescue Committee exemptions from the anti-Jewish laws so that its members could travel and use cars and telephones.[24]

First meeting with Eichmann[edit]

Adolf Eichmann during his trial in Israel, 1961

Following the contact with Wislicency, Brand received a message on 25 April that SS Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann (1906–1962) wanted to see him that day.[25] Eichmann had arrived in Budapest as head of the Sondereinsatzkommando, the group overseeing the deportation of the Jews. He was captured after the war in Argentina by the Israeli government, tried in Jerusalem in 1961, and hanged in Ramla on 31 May 1962.[26]

Brand was told to wait in the Opera Cafḗ, where an SS car would pick him up, and from there was taken to the Hotel Majestic, Eichmann's headquarters.[25] According to Brand, Untersturmbannführer Kurt Becher (1909–1995), an SS officer and emissary of Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945), Reichsführer-SS, was standing behind Eichmann during the meeting. Becher had arrived in Hungary in March, ostensibly to buy 20,000 horses for the SS. Yehuda Bauer writes that Becher's presence suggests the meeting was of some importance.[27]

Eichmann introduced himself, then in a tone Brand described as like the "clatter of a machine gun" said he was willing to sell Brand one million Jews in exchange, not for money, but for trucks, tea, coffee and soap:[25]

I have already made investigations about you and your people and I have verified your ability to make a deal. Now then, I am prepared to sell you one million Jews. ... Goods for blood – blood for goods. You can take them from any country you like, wherever you can find them – Hungary, Poland, the Ostmark, from Theresienstadt, from Auschwitz, wherever you like.[28]

Brand asked Eichmann how the committee was supposed to obtain the goods. Eichmann suggested he negotiate with the Allies overseas and asked Brand where he wanted to go. Brand chose Istanbul; another Aid and Rescue Committee member, Samuel Springmann, had a contact who had acted as a go-between with the Jewish Agency there. Eichmann said he would discuss the negotiations with the leadership in Berlin and that Brand should return with a concrete proposal.[29] Brand said that, on leaving the building, he felt like a "stark madman."[30]

Further meetings[edit]

Eichmann sent for Brand again a few days later. This time he handed Brand $32,000 that the Germans had intercepted; it had been sent to the Aid and Rescue Committee, via the Swedish Embassy in Budapest, by rescue workers in Switzerland.[31] They met for a third time on 15 May, the day the deportations to Auschwitz began. Between then and 8 July, 437,402 Jews, almost the entire Jewish population outside Budapest, are recorded as having been deported from Hungary to Auschwitz on 147 trains, at a rate of around 12,000 a day. Most were gassed.[32]

Eichmann was accompanied during the third meeting by Gerhard Clages (1902–1944), also known as Otto Klages, chief of Himmler's Sicherheitsdienst (security service) in Budapest. Bauer writes that Clages' job was to forge a relationship with the West; his presence at the meeting meant that three of Himmler's senior officers – Eichmann, Becher and Clages – were involved with the Brand proposal.[27] Clages handed Brand more cash intercepted by the Germans from the Swiss rescue workers, this time $50,000 and 270,000 Swiss francs.[31]

Eichmann told Brand that he wanted 10,000 new trucks for the Waffen-SS to use on the Eastern front, one truck for every 100 Jews, as well as 200 tons of tea, 200 tons of cocoa, 800 tons of coffee and 2,000,000 cases of soap. If Brand returned to Budapest with confirmation that the Allies had accepted the proposal, Eichmann said he would release 10 percent of the one million. The deal would proceed with 100,000 Jews released for every 1,000 trucks.[33]

It remains unclear whether Eichmann told Brand to return to Budapest by a particular date. According to Bauer, Brand said at various points that he was given one, two or three weeks, or told that he could "take [his] time."[27] Hansi Brand testified during Eichmann's trial that, as she understood it, she and her children would remain in Budapest, effectively as hostages, until her husband returned.[34]

May – October 1944[edit]

Brand leaves for Istanbul[edit]

Part of a series of articles on
the Holocaust
Blood for goods
Auschwitz entrance.JPG

The day after his last meeting with Eichmann, Brand secured a letter of recommendation from the Zentralrat der Ungarischen Juden (the Hungarian Jewish Council). He was told he would be travelling with Bandi Grosz (real name Andor Gross, also known as Andrea Gyorgy), a Hungarian who had worked for both Hungarian and German military intelligence. (Grosz was the intelligence operative with contacts in Istanbul that Samuel Springmann had developed.)[35] Grosz was travelling undercover as the director of a Hungarian transport company.[36] The men left Budapest on 17 May 1944 and were driven by the SS to Vienna, where they stayed the night in a hotel reserved for SS personnel.[37]

Grosz, who was low level enough to provide plausible deniability for the Germans, later testified that he had been told by Clages to arrange a meeting in a neutral country between senior German and American or British officers to broker peace between the German Sicherheitsdienst (SD) (part of the SS) and the Western Allies, a deal that would exclude the Soviet Union.[37]

Meeting with Jewish Agency[edit]

In Vienna, Brand was given a German passport in the name of Eugen Band. Brand sent a telegram to the Jewish Agency in Istanbul to say he was on his way, and arrived by German diplomatic plane on 19 May.[38] Paul Lawrence Rose writes that Brand had no idea at this point that the deportations to Auschwitz had already begun.[39] He had been told by the Jewish Agency by return cable that "Chaim" would meet him in Istanbul. Convinced of the importance of his mission, he believed this was Chaim Weizmann (1874–1952), president of the World Zionist Organization, later the first president of Israel. But in fact the man who intended to meet him was Chaim Barlas, head of the Istanbul group of Zionist emissaries.[38]

Brand was further confused when he found that, not only was no one waiting to meet him and no entry visa arranged, but that he was threatened with arrest and deportation, which he saw as the first sign of betrayal by the Jewish Agency.[40] Bauer argues that Brand, then and later, never understood the actual powerlessness of the Jewish Agency. The fact that his passport was in the name of Eugen Band would have been enough in itself to cause the confusion.[38]

The visa situation was eventually sorted out by Bandi Grosz and the men were taken to a hotel, where they met the Jewish Agency delegates.[41] Brand lost his temper that no one sufficiently senior was available to negotiate a deal.[42] The Jewish Agency decided to arrange for Moshe Sharett (1894–1965, né Shertok), head of its political department and later second prime minister of Israel, to travel to Istanbul to meet him. Brand passed them a plan of Auschwitz (probably from the Vrba-Wetzler report) and demanded that the gas chambers, crematoria and railways lines be bombed. The discussions left him discouraged and depressed; he felt the delegates were focused more on internal politics and Jewish immigration into Palestine, rather than stopping the slaughter in Europe. "[They] were undoubtedly worthy men ... But they lacked any awareness of how critical was the period of history in which they were living. They had not looked death in the face day after day, as we had in Budapest ..."[43]

Interim agreement[edit]

Ladislaus Löb writes that proposals and counter-proposals flew back and forth between Istanbul, London and Washington. The Jewish Agency and Brand wanted the Germans to be strung along in the hope of slowing the deportations. Moshe Sharett flew to London in June to ask that "a carrot be dangled before the Germans."[44]

Hungarian Jews arriving in Auschwitz

The Agency gave Brand a document, dated 29 May 1944, that accepted Eichmann's offer in principle. If the deportations stopped, the Germans would receive 10,000 Swiss francs a month. The document offered them $400,000 for every 1,000 Jewish emigrants to Palestine, and one million Swiss francs per 10,000 Jewish emigrants to neutral countries such as Spain. If the Nazis would allow the Allies to supply food, clothes and medicine to the Jews in concentration camps, the Nazis would be supplied with the same. Rose writes that the interim agreement was intended only to give Brand something to take back to Budapest.[45]

Brand sent his wife a telegram to tell her (and thereby Eichmann) about the agreement, but there was no response. He sent another on 31 May. Unknown to him, his wife and Rezső Kasztner had been held in Budapest between 27 May and 1 June by the Hungarian Arrow Cross. They received the telegrams when they were released, by which time Brand had left Istanbul. They told Eichmann about the interim agreement, but he refused to halt the deportations.[46]

The Agency sent the document to Budapest by diplomatic courier. It arrived on 7 July and Kasztner took it straight to Eichmann and Becher. Kasztner said he asked Becher whether it was sufficient to open negotiations about all the Jews held by the Germans. In the meantime Kasztner asked for two things: that a trainload of over 1,600 Jews he had arranged to travel to Switzerland be allowed to resume its journey (the train had left Budapest, but had been diverted without explanation to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp), and that no further Jews from Budapest be deported. Becher said he had to seek approval from Himmler.[47]

Arrested by British[edit]

Moshe Sharett, then head of the Jewish Agency's political department, later Israel's second prime minister

In Istanbul Brand was told that Moshe Sharett was unable to get a visa for Turkey.[48] The Jewish Agency asked Brand to meet him instead in Aleppo on the Syrian-Turkish border. He was reluctant; the area was under British control and he was afraid they would want to question him. He was nevertheless persuaded to go and left by train with two members of the Jewish Agency.[49]

While on the train, Brand was approached by two representatives of Zeev Jabotinsky's Hatzohar party (Alliance of Zionists-Revisionists Party) and the World Agudath Israel Orthodox religious party. They told him the British were going to arrest him in Aleppo: "Die Engländer sind in dieser Frage nicht unsere Verbündeten"("the British are not our allies in this matter").[50] As soon as he arrived at the Aleppo train station on 7 June, he was stopped by a British man in plain clothes and pushed into a Jeep that was waiting with its engine running.[51]

Proposal rejected[edit]

The British officers drove Brand to a villa, where for four days they tried to stop Moshe Sharett from meeting him. Sharett "fought a battle of telephones and cables," Bauer writes, and on 11 June he and the Jewish Agency intelligence group were finally introduced to Brand in Aleppo. The discussion lasted several hours.[52] Sharett wrote in a report of 27 June: "I must have looked a little incredulous, for he said: 'Please believe me: they have killed six million Jews; there are only two million left alive.'"[53] At the end of the meeting, Sharett broke the news that the British were insisting Brand not return to Budapest. Brand became hysterical.[54]

British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, 1941
Prime Minister Winston Churchill put an end to the proposal on 11 July 1944, with a memo that there should be "no negotiations of any kind on this subject."[55]

He was taken to Cairo, where he was questioned by the British for weeks. On 22 June he was interviewed by Ira Hirschmann (1901–1989) of the American War Refugee Board; Hirschmann wrote a positive report about Brand, but his influence was limited.[56] Brand went on hunger strike for 17 days in protest at his detention.[57]

The British, Americans and Soviet Union discussed the proposal. British Foreign Secretary (later Prime Minister) Anthony Eden (1897–1977), wrote a memo on 26 June outlining the options.[58] The British were convinced they were dealing with a Himmler trick, perhaps an attempt to broker a peace deal with the West to cause a rift between the Western Allies and Soviet Union. If the deal had gone through and large numbers of Jews had been released in central Europe, Allied airborne and possibly land-based military operations might have had to stop. Bauer believes the British feared this was Himmler's motive – to turn the Jews into human shields – because it would have allowed the Germans to devote their forces to fighting the Red Army.[59] The Americans were more open to negotiating. A rift developed between them and the British who, Bauer writes, were worried about large-scale Jewish immigration to Palestine, then under British control.[60] There was also concern about the effect of Jewish immigration to the UK or US.[61]

Eden did suggest a counter-proposal on 1 July, but it was reduced, Bauer writes, to a ridiculous minimum. He told the American government that the British would allow Brand to return to Budapest with a message for Eichmann suggesting that 1,500 Jewish children be given safe passage to Switzerland, 5,000 from Bulgaria and Romania be allowed to leave for Palestine, and that Germany guarantee safe conduct for ships carrying Jewish refugees. He did not say what he would offer in return.[62] On 11 July Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965) put an end to the idea when he told Eden that the deportation and murder of the Jews was "probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed," and that there should be "no negotiations of any kind on this subject." Of Brand's mission, he wrote: "The project which has been put forward through a very doubtful channel seems itself also to be of the most nondescript character. I would not take it seriously."[55]

Leak to media[edit]

The British leaked details of Eichmann's proposal to the media. On 19 July 1944 – the day before the 20 July plot, the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler – the New York Herald Tribune (dateline London, 18 July) reported that two emissaries of the Hungarian government had appeared in Turkey, proposing that Jews in Hungary be given safe passage in exchange for British and American pharmaceuticals and transport for the Germans.[63] The Times of London called it "one of the most loathsome" stories of the war, an attempt to "blackmail, deceive and split" the Allies, and a "new level of fantasy and self-deception."[64]

By the time of the leak, the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews had already stopped. Following publication in mid-June of parts of the Vrba-Wetzler report, the first detailed evidence of the mass murder taking place inside Auschwitz, the Jewish Agency in Geneva had cabled London asking that Hungarian ministers be held personally responsible for the killings. The cable was intercepted and passed to Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy, who ordered an end to the deportations on 7 July.[65]

The British released Brand on 5 October 1944. Brand said they would not allow him to return to Hungary and forced him to travel to Palestine. Bauer disputes this, writing that Brand was simply afraid of returning to Budapest, convinced the Germans would murder him.[66]

Himmler's involvement[edit]

Germany's Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893–1946), had apparently known nothing about the proposal before the media leak. He cabled Brigadeführer Edmund Veesenmayer (1904–1977) of the SS on 20 July 1944 to ask about it, and was told on 22 July that Brand and Grosz had been sent to Turkey on the orders of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. Eichmann himself said during interrogation after the war that the order had come from Himmler, as did SS officer Kurt Becher: "Himmler said to me: 'Take whatever you can from the Jews. Promise them whatever you want. What we will keep is another matter.'"[67]

Heinrich Himmler. Bauer argues that Eichmann was Himmler's reluctant messenger during the meetings with Brand.

Bauer writes that the "clumsiness of the approach has been a wonderment to all observers." He argues that Eichmann wanted to murder Jews, not sell them, but was forced instead to act as Himmler's reluctant messenger. On the day Brand left Germany for Istanbul in May 1944, Eichmann was in Auschwitz checking that it was ready for the trainloads of Jews about to arrive from Hungary. The camp's commander, Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss (1901–1947), said it would be difficult to process such large numbers, whereupon Eichmann ordered that new arrivals be gassed immediately rather than going through "selection." This does not suggest that he was going to halt the killing until Brand returned from Istanbul.[5]

In Bauer's view, the presence at one of the meetings of Gerhard Clages of the SS signals that Himmler was focusing on secret peace talks. Brand and Grosz arrived in Istanbul just two months before the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944. Himmler knew that attempts might be made on Hitler's life, though not where and when. It is possible that he wanted to broker for peace in case Hitler did not survive, using low-level agents for plausible deniability, and if Hitler did survive, Bauer argues, Himmler could offer him a peace deal with the West that excluded the Soviet Union.[68]

Brand himself came to believe that the proposal had been designed to drive a wedge between the Allies. Two months before his death in 1964, at the trial in Germany of Eichmann's deputies Hermann Krumey (1905–1981) and Otto Hunsche, he said he had "made a terrible mistake in passing this on to the British. It is now clear to me that Himmler sought to sow suspicion among the Allies as a preparation for his much desired Nazi-Western coalition against Moscow."[69]

Kasztner train[edit]

Further information: Kasztner train
Kasztner train passengers, on their way to Switzerland from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, August or December 1944

In Budapest, the Aid and Rescue Committee waited anxiously for news of Brand. His failure to return was a disaster. On 27 May 1944 Hansi Brand, who at some point during this period became Kasztner's lover, was arrested and beaten by the Hungarian Arrow Cross.[70] Kasztner wrote that on 9 June Eichmann told him: "If I do not receive a positive reply within three days, I shall operate the mill at Auschwitz"[71] ("die Muehle laufen lasse").[34] During his trial Eichmann denied having said this; he told the court that he did not having the authority to stop or start what was happening in Auschwitz. He also said he did not have the authority to change the arrangement. The order from Berlin had said: "Deportations will continue in the meanwhile and will not be stopped until Joel Brand returns with a statement to the effect that these matters have been accepted by the Jewish organizations abroad."[72]

Bauer argues that the committee made the mistake of almost adopting the anti-Semitic belief in unlimited Jewish power, that Jewish leaders could move around freely and persuade the Allies to act, and that American Jews had easy access to money and goods. The committee had similar trust in the Allies, but the latter were preparing for the invasion of Normandy, which began on 6 June 1944. "At that crucial moment," writes Bauer, "to antagonize the Soviets because of some hare-brained Gestapo plan to ransom Jews was totally out of the question."[73]

Despite the setbacks, Kasztner, Hansi Brand and the rest of the committee secured the release of around 1,684 Jews, including 273 children, who were allowed to leave Budapest by train on 30 June 1944. The train arrived in Switzerland in August and December that year, after a detour to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.[74] Joel Brand's mother, sister and niece were among the passengers, as were 10 members of Kasztner's family and 388 people from the Kolozsvár ghetto in his home town, an issue that led to intense criticism and Kasztner's assassination.[75] The committee paid Kurt Becher $1000 per person in foreign currency, shares, jewellery and gold, raised from the wealthier passengers to cover the cost of the others.[76]

Aftermath, death[edit]

Further information: Kasztner trial
External images
Joel Brand testifying at Adolf Eichmann's trial, Jerusalem, 31 May 1961
Video of Brand's testimony
News report about the Eichmann verdict

Brand was a bitter man when he was finally released. He joined the Stern Gang, who were fighting to remove the British from Palestine, and moved to Tel Aviv with his family. Bauer concludes that Brand had passionately wanted to help the Jewish people, but after the mission his life was plagued by the suspicion of family and friends. The situation caused a rift between him and the other Aid and Rescue Committee members, who for years wondered what the truth was behind his failure to return to Budapest.[77]

Eichmann in the yard of his prison cell in Ramla. He was hanged on 31 May 1962.

Ronald Florence writes that, after settling in Israel, Brand seemed to live only to set the record straight.[78] He offered testimony about the blood-for-goods proposal during several trials, including that of Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961 and Eichmann's assistant Hermann Krumey in Frankfurt in 1964.[78]

He also testified in 1954 at the controversial libel trial in Jerusalem of Malchiel Gruenwald (1882–1968), who was sued by the Israeli government on behalf of Rezső Kasztner.[79] Gruenwald was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who moved to Israel after the war. In a self-published pamphlet in 1952 he accused Kasztner, by then an Israeli civil servant, of having collaborated with the Nazis by dealing with Eichmann.[80] Brand testified for Kasztner, but instead of defending him took the opportunity to accuse the Jewish Agency, whose officials became the first Israeli government, of having helped the British scupper the blood-for-goods proposal.[81]

After a trial that lasted 18 months, the judge concluded in a 300–page opinion that, by negotiating with Eichmann, failing to warn the many to save the few on the Kasztner train, and writing an affidavit after the war for SS officer Kurt Becher, Kasztner had "sold his soul to the devil."[82] It was because of Kasztner's support for Becher that the Americans decided not to prosecute Becher at Nuremberg (Kasztner also wrote affidavits for Hans Jüttner (1894–1965), Dieter Wisliceny and Hermann Krumey).[83]

The judge said that Kasztner's failure to do more to warn the community that they were being sent to the gas chambers, and not resettled, had effectively helped Eichmann maintain order among them, and that the Kazstner train had been a payoff. The Supreme Court of Israel overturned most of the verdict in January 1958, ruling that the lower court had "erred seriously," but Kasztner was assassinated in 1957 as a result of the earlier judgment.[84] Tom Segev called the trial judge's ruling "one of the most heartless in the history of Israel, perhaps the most heartless ever."[85]

Brand was never able to put behind him the idea that he might have saved a million lives. Life magazine called him "a man who lives in the shadows with a broken heart." He died of a heart attack, aged 58, during a visit to Germany in July 1964, telling an interviewer shortly before his death: "An accident of life placed the fate of one million human beings on my shoulders. I eat and sleep and think only of them."[86] Over 800 mourners attended his funeral in Tel Aviv, including Colonel Arieh Baz on behalf of Israel's President Zalman Shazar (1889–1974), and Teddy Kollek (1911–2007), director-general of the prime minister's office, on behalf of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (1895–1969). The eulogy was delivered by Gideon Hausner (1915–1990), the attorney general who prosecuted Adolf Eichmann.[87]



  1. ^ a b For Naszod, Siebenbuergen, see Testimony of Joel Brand, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 56, part 1/4, The Nizkor Project, 29 May 1961; for Erfurt, Brand 1958, p. 17.
  2. ^ a b "Joel Brand, 58, Hungarian Jew In Eichmann's Truck Deal, Dies", New York Times, 15 July 1964.
  3. ^ a b Breitman and Aronson 1992, p. 177.
  4. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 192.
  5. ^ a b Bauer 1994, pp. 167–168.
  6. ^ Brand 1958, p. 16.
  7. ^ Bauer 1989, p. 66.
  8. ^ a b Brand 1958, p. 17; Bauer 1994, p. 152.
  9. ^ a b c Testimony of Joel Brand, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 56, part 1/4, 29 May 1961.
  10. ^ Brand 1958, p. 18; for marriage of convenience, Bauer 1989, p. 67; for more on Hansi Brand, Weitz 2009.
  11. ^ Florence 2010, p. 2.
  12. ^ Brand 1958, p. 18.
  13. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 152; Löb 2009, p. 51.
  14. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 152–153; Szita 2005, p. 2; for January 1943, Löb 2009, p. 52; for Springmann, Porter 2007, p. 44.
  15. ^ Halász 2000, p. 260.
  16. ^ Löb 2009, pp. 54–56.
  17. ^ a b Bauer 1989, p. 68.
  18. ^ Braham 2000, pp. 101–106.
  19. ^ Löb 2009, pp. 56–57.
  20. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 67–72; for the $20,000, Löb 2009, p. 56.
  21. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 79ff; for Grossplan, p. 99.
  22. ^ Löb 2009, p. 56.
  23. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 71–72; Braham 2000, pp. 204–205; Löb 2009, pp. 57–58.
  24. ^ Löb 2009, p. 58.
  25. ^ a b c Brand 1958, pp. 83, 85–86; Hecht 1999 [1961], p. 220; Fleming 2014, p. 231.
  26. ^ Braham 2000, p. 263; for Sondereinsatzkommando, Bauer 1989, p. 66. For Eichmann's testimony about his arrival in Hungary, see Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 86, part 2/5, and for his dealings with Brand, 3/5, 5 July 1961.
  27. ^ a b c Bauer 1994, p. 165.
  28. ^ Brand 1958, p. 15; Fleming 2014, p. 231.
  29. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 86–87; for the go-between Bauer 1989, p. 70.
  30. ^ Hecht 1999 [1961], p. 220.
  31. ^ a b Bauer 1994, p. 164.
  32. ^ Berenbaum 2002, p. 9.
  33. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 95–96; Bauer 1994, p. 163; Halász 2000, p. 260.
  34. ^ a b Testimony of Hansi Brand, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 58, part 2/5, 30 May 1961.
  35. ^ Testimony of Joel Brand, Trial of Adolph Eichmann, session 57, part 5/6, 29 May 1961; Breitman and Aronson 1992, p. 177; for Andor Gross, see Szita 2005, p. 72, and Bauer 1989, p. 70.
  36. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 153.
  37. ^ a b Bauer 1994, p. 166; Breitman and Aronson 1992, p. 177.
  38. ^ a b c Bauer 1994, p. 172.
  39. ^ Rose 1991, p. 910.
  40. ^ Brand 1958, p. 114.
  41. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 114–115.
  42. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 118–119.
  43. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 119, 120, 122; Löb 2009, p. 67.
  44. ^ Löb 2009, p. 67.
  45. ^ Rose 1991, p. 911.
  46. ^ Rose 1991, pp. 912–913.
  47. ^ Rose 1991, p. 915.
  48. ^ Bauer 1989, p. 177.
  49. ^ Testimony of Joel Brand, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 57, part 1/6, 2/6.
  50. ^ Brand 1958, p. 137; for the German, Hilberg 1961, p. 1222.
  51. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 138–139.
  52. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 180; Brand 1958, p. 140.
  53. ^ Hilberg 1961, p. 1223.
  54. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 142–143.
  55. ^ a b FO 371/42809/115, cited in Wasserstein 1979, p. 259; also cited in part in Churchill 1953, p. 597, and Cohen 2003, p. 291.
  56. ^ Brand 1958, pp. 154–162; Bauer 1994, pp. 184–185.
  57. ^ Hecht 1999 [1961], p. 227; Bauer 1994, p. 194; Florence 2010, p. 216.
  58. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 185–186.
  59. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 170.
  60. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 186–188.
  61. ^ Löb 2009, pp. 68–69.
  62. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 186.
  63. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 192, 194; Bauer 1989, p. 120.
  64. ^ "A Monstrous 'Offer,'" The Times, 20 July 1944; Brand 1958, p. 164.
  65. ^ Rees 2006, pp. 242–243.
  66. ^ Löb 2009, p. 70; Bauer 1994, pp. 176–177.
  67. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 167, 192.
  68. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 168.
  69. ^ "Allied Rift Called Aim of '44 Nazi Ransom Plan", The New York Times, 21 May 1964.
  70. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 197; Löb 2009, p. 250.
  71. ^ State Attorney Bach, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 59, part 6/6, 31 May 1961.
  72. ^ Testimony of Adolf Eichmann, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 86, part 3/5, 5 July 1961.
  73. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 170–171.
  74. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 199; Löb 2009, pp. 50, 97.
  75. ^ Porter 2007, p. 233ff.
  76. ^ Bauer 1994, pp. 198–199.
  77. ^ Bauer 1994, p. 194.
  78. ^ a b Florence 2010, p. 290.
  79. ^ For Brand's testimony, see Hecht 1999 [1961], pp. 218–247.
  80. ^ Löb 2009, pp. 243–244.
  81. ^ Löb 2009, pp. 250–251.
  82. ^ Löb 2009, pp. 259, 261.
  83. ^ Löb 2009, 239–241.
  84. ^ Löb 2009, 260–261, 279–281 (for the Supreme Court).
  85. ^ Segev 2000, p. 282.
  86. ^ "Joel Brand, 58, Hungarian Jew In Eichmann's Truck Deal, Dies", New York Times, 15 July 1964 (for heart attack and "accident of life"); Harry Golden, "A Stranger to the Human Race," Life, 21 April 1961, p. 46 (for broken heart).
  87. ^ "Joel Brand Buried in Israel; Shazar and Eshkol Represented at Ceremony", JTA, 23 July 1964.


Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale: Nazi–Jewish Negotiations, 1933–1945, Yale University Press, 1994.
Bauer, Yehuda. "The Mission of Joel Brand," in Michael Marrus, The Nazi Holocaust, volume 2, Meckler, 1989, pp. 65–126.
Berenbaum, Michael. "Foreword," in Randolph L. Braham, Scott Miller (eds.), The Nazis' Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary, Wayne State University Press, 2002.
Braham, Randolph L. The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, Wayne State University Press, 2000 [1981] (condensed edition).
Brand, Joel and Weissberg, Alex. Advocate for the Dead: The Story of Joel Brand, Andre Deutsch, 1958 (first published as Die Geschichte von Joel Brand, 1956; also published as Desperate Mission: Joel Brand's Story).
Breitman, Richard and Aronson, Shlomo. "The End of the 'Final Solution'?: Nazi Plans to Ransom Jews in 1944", Central European History, 25(2), 1992, pp. 177–203.
Churchill, Winston. The Second World War: Triumph and Tragedy, volume 6, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953.
Cohen, Michael J. Churchill and the Jews, 1900–1948, Routledge, 2003.
Fleming, Michael. Auschwitz, the Allies and Censorship of the Holocaust, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Florence, Ronald. Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining for Lives in the Holocaust, Viking, 2010.
Hecht, Ben. Perfidy, Milah Press, 1999 [1961].
Halász, Dorottya Sziszkoszné. "The United States and the Joel Brand Mission: Help or Hindrance?", Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, 6(2), Fall 2000, pp. 259–266.
Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews, Yale University Press, 2003 [1961].
Löb, Ladislaus. Rezső Kasztner. The Daring Rescue of Hungarian Jews: A Survivor's Account, Pimlico, 2009 [2008].
Porter, Anna. Kasztner's Train, Douglas & Mcintyre Ltd, 2007.
Rees, Laurence. Auschwitz: A New History, PublicAffairs, 2006.
Rose, Paul Lawrence. "Joel Brand's 'Interim Agreement' and the Course of Nazi-Jewish Negotiations 1944-1945", The Historical Journal, 34(4), December 1991, pp. 909-929.
Szita, Szabolcs. Trading in Lives?: Operations of the Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee in Budapest, 1944-1945, Central European University Press, 2005, translated by Sean Lambert.
Nizkor Project. "The Trial of Adolf Eichmann", 11 April 1961 – 29 May 1962.
Testimony of Joel Brand, Session 56, 29 May 1961; Session 57, 30 May 1961; Session 59, 31 May 1961.
Testimony of Hansi Brand, Session 58, 30 May 1961; Session 59, 31 May 1961.
Testimony of Adolf Eichmann, Sessions 75–107, 20 June – 24 July 1961.
Segev, Tom. The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, Picador, 2000.
Wasserstein, Bernard. Britain and the Jews of Europe: 1939–1945, Clarendon Press, 1979.
Weitz, Yechiam. "Hansi Brand (Hartmann)", Jewish Women's Archive, 1 March 2009.

Further reading[edit]

Biss, Andreas. Der Stopp des Endlösung: Kampf gegen Himmler und Eichmann in Budapest, Seewald, 1966.
Biss, Andreas. "Andreas Biss antwortet Yehuda Bauer", Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 27(1), March 1979, pp. 162–166 (German).
Braham, Randolph L. "Joel Brand," in Israel Gutman (ed), Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust, Macmillan, 1990, volume 1, pp. 238–240.
Brand, Hansi. The Devil and the Soul, Tel Aviv, 1960 (Hebrew).
Brand, Joel. A Mission on Behalf of the Sentenced to Death, Tel Aviv, 1957 (Hebrew).
Cesarani, David (ed), Genocide and Rescue: The Holocaust in Hungary 1944, Berg Publishers, 1997.
Elon, Amos. Timetable: The Story of Joel Brand, Arrow, 1981.
Guardian, The. "Mass Murderer of Jews Found", 24 May 1960.
Kasztner, Rezső. Affidavit, 13 September 1945, courtesy of the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team.
Kasztner, Rezső. The Report of the Budapest Jewish Rescue Committee, 1942–1945, Yad Vashem, 2014 [December 1946].
Laor, Dan. "Israel Kastner vs. Hannah Szenes: Who was really the hero during the Holocaust?", Haaretz, 9 November 2013.
Mendelsohn, John. Relief in Hungary and the Failure of the Joel Brand Mission, The Holocaust, Volume 15, Garland Publishers, 1982.
PBS. "The Trial of Adolf Eichmann.
Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets. Final report, December 2000.
Rozett, Robert; Spector, Shmuel (eds). Europa plan", Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Routledge, 2013.
Time magazine. "Israel: Jews for Trucks", 9 June 1961.
Wilkinson, Tracy. "Hansi Brand; Worked to Help Jews Escape From the Holocaust", Los Angeles Times, 19 April 2000.