Hanjnalka (Hansi) Hartmann was born in Budapest (then Austria-Hungary) in 1912. She was educated there and joined a Zionist youth movement when she was in high school. Later on, she joined a pioneering village which taught young Jews "agricultural training prior to their immigration to Palestine." Hansi married Joel Brand ("a prominent member of the World Union of Mapai") in Budapest in 1935 in a fictitious marriage in order to be allowed to immigrate to Palestine. Later on Hansi's and Joel's marriage became a "real", sincere one. They established a small glove factory and had two sons, one of whom died young.
Hansi moved from Budapest to Switzerland in 1946, and then from there to Palestine in 1947. In her final years, Brand worked at the Michlelet Tel Aviv college and on behalf of orphans and Ethiopian immigrants. Hansi's husband Joel died at the age of 58 in 1964. Hansi died in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2000. Brand was survived by her son, Daniel.
Between 1938 and 1945, Hansi and her husband were deeply involved in efforts to help Jewish refugees who had escaped to Hungary (which did not deport Jews to concentration camps before the Nazi invasion in 1944). They saved Hansi's sister and her family from being sent to Nazi concentration camps after they had been deported to Poland in 1941. They accomplished this by bribing Hungarian intelligence officer Jozef Krem. Together with some other Hungarian Zionist activists, the couple founded the Aid and Rescue Committee in 1942.
Hansi and Joel Brand were key associates in the Kasztner negotiations with the Nazis. The central part of the deal with Eichmann was the so-called “Goods for Blood” arrangement in which the Nazis tried to barter Jewish lives for money, arms and supplies in the dying months of the war.
Joel Brand was dispatched to Istanbul in order to persuade the Jewish Agency leadership to accept this plan, which came to nothing. The Zionist leaders told Brand that Moshe Sharett—then head of the Agency’s political department, and later, Israel’s second prime minister—could not obtain a visa for Istanbul and that a meeting could only take place in Aleppo. Within moments of leaving the train to Aleppo, Brand was arrested by the British, and, back in Budapest, Kasztner had begun an affair with Hansi Brand.
Hansi and the other committee members tried negotiating with Adolf Eichmann to save (at least some) Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust. Hansi and Rudolf Kastner were able to get 1,685 Jews to leave Hungary and go to neutral Switzerland on the Kastner train. In addition, Hansi and The Relief and Rescue Committee were able to save the lives of some (additional) Jews by getting 15,000 of them deported to Strasshof concentration camp (where they had a much greater chance of surviving) than to Auschwitz. Finally, Hansi also tried saving the lives of some Hungarian Jewish children whom the Nazis forced on a "Death March" in November 1944.
In December 1946, in Basel, Switzerland, Hansi Brand testified in front of a special committee dealing with Rudolf Kastner’s activity during the Holocaust in Hungary. Hansi also testified in the Kastner trial in 1954 and in the Eichmann trial in 1961.
- In 1960, Brand wrote Satan and the Soul about the couple's activities during the Holocaust and the Kastner trial.
- Sharon Geva, "Wife, Lover, Woman: The Image of Hansi Brand in Israeli Public Discourse", Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, No. 27, Fall 2014, pp. 97–119.
- Baruch, Hava (Fall 2000). "Profile of Hansi Brand" (PDF). Yad Vashem Magazine (Volume #20). Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. p. 15. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Hansi Brand, 89, Holocaust Heroine - Sun Sentinel". Los Angeles Times. Articles.sun-sentinel.com. 2000-04-20. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
- "Hansi Brand (Hartmann) | Jewish Women's Archive". Jwa.org. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- Image vs. reality: The story of Hansi Brand