The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/05/27

There is no doubt that the order to begin negotiations about
the exchange of Jews for goods came from Himmler himself.
What caused Himmler to make this proposal, we do not know.
Possibly, all this was nothing but a manoeuvre, or he was
seeking to prepare an alibi for himself or wanted to show
what he could achieve by obtaining essential goods for the
Reich.  In any case, all these were matters of general high
policy, entirely beyond the sphere of activity of the
Accused, who concentrated all his efforts on the
implementation of the Final Solution.  On receiving the
order to conduct negotiations with the Jews, he carried it
out.  There is proof that when Brand did not return and the
whole matter collapsed, the Accused expressed satisfaction
(the evidence of Hansi Brand; report by Wisliceny, T/85, p.
21).  The most that can be said is that the Accused
conducted the negotiations as he was ordered, in the same
way as, in accordance with orders received, he allowed the
departure of 1,700 Jews from Hungary to Bergen-Belsen, and
later on from there to Switzerland.  But it is sheer
hypocrisy to come now and testify that his reactions to the
failure of the negotiations were sorrow, fury and anger,
like the feelings of Joel Brand.  This entire version was
invented by the Accused only after he had read Joel Brand's
book, from which he thought he could find something to hold
on to, in order to show himself in a more favourable light.
To this end, he also exploited an error made by Joel Brand,
in connection with the 100,000 Jews whom the Accused
allegedly agreed to release as soon as the barter agreement
was concluded, and even before the goods were supplied.  In
the detailed report drawn up by Mr. Moshe Sharett (Shertok)
after his conversation with Brand in Aleppo (T/1176), there
is no mention of such a promise, but Brand is quoted as
saying that only a few thousand would be released
immediately (supra, p. 4).  Incidentally, it seems to us -
although Brand's evidence is borne out by that of his wife,
and we do not doubt the subjective sincerity of both these
witnesses - that Brand was mistaken in regard to one further
detail, namely that the Accused promised him to blow up the
extermination installations at Auschwitz the moment an
agreement was concluded.  This, too, is not mentioned in Mr.
Sharett's report, and it is inconceivable that Brand would
not report two such important promises to Mr. Sharett or
that Mr. Sharett would not have noted them in writing, had
they been communicated to him by Brand.

When one compares the Accused's evidence in Court with what
he said in Statement T/37 on the same matter, the
untruthfulness of his version is glaring (supra, p. 294 et
seq.).   He says there that he received the order to conduct
the negotiations directly from Himmler, and that he does not
remember who initiated the idea, whether it was Becher, or
he himself, or Himmler.  And again, on p. 2905, in answer to
a question by Superintendent Less as to how things got to
the stage of negotiations with Brand:

"Mr. Superintendent, this, too, I do not know; I left this
matter entirely open, this I do not know.  When I read the
book [by Brand], I always thought to myself: I do not know
who gave the order or the idea.  The order, of course, came
from higher up, this is clear - but the idea, if it was I,
if it was the Reichsfuehrer, if it was Becher, someone must
have thought of it - and in any case I was the one to send
it on higher up.  Whether I was the initiator of it or
someone else gave me the idea and I only passed it on higher
up and received the necessary instructions, this I do not
know any longer; this I can no longer say." (See also pp.

It is therefore evident that he devoted much thought to this
question, but he cannot give the answer - although the first
hint of an effort to claim credit for the initiative already
appears at this stage.  Is it possible that he would not
remember so important a matter, if it were indeed true that
he initiated the idea of sparing the lives of one million
Jews?  But in his testimony in Court everything seems to
have become quite clear: He, and he alone, initiated the
plan, brought it before Mueller (not directly to Himmler)
and received, from or through Mueller, authority to conduct
the negotiations (Session 86, Vol. IV, p. xxxx13).

We learn from the documents the kind of plans the Accused
was concerned with, after Brand's departure.  He was not
engaged in preparations for the emigration of 100,000 Jews,
as he had the temerity to allege in his evidence, but in the
deportation of all Hungarian Jewry to Auschwitz at an
accelerated pace, that is to say, the extermination of those
Jews who still remained in German hands and who were to be
the subject of barter against goods.  He is already
preparing the evacuation of the Jews from Budapest at this
very same time, that is, the second half of May 1944.  This
we learn from von Thadden's report mentioned above (T/1194).

117. With regard to all the Accused's activities in Hungary,
he reverts to his usual tactics of shifting responsibility
to other authorities, until his Counsel has to put the
question to him:

     "Witness, what else remained of your activities,
     because I do not know what there was left for you to

And the Accused answers:

     "This I already said in my Statement when questioned by
     the Superintendent on behalf of the Israeli Police, but
     I know that these things sounded incredible.  In fact,
     the documents prove that I was associated with the
     preparation of the timetables, but only marginally.  At
     first, all that was left for me to do was to report and
     pass on information to my superiors...I know that this
     is incredible, or almost incredible, but what am I to
     do?  This is how things were."  (Session 86, Vol. IV,
     p. xxxx11.)

Indeed, this version is not credible, because there is no
truth in it.  As to the relationship between the Accused and
the Hungarians (especially Endre and Baky and Ferenczy of
the gendarmerie), we have already said that they were his
loyal partners, that their desire to get rid of the Jews was
no whit less than the Accused's desire to get hold of them,
in order to send them to extermination.  But in this
partnership the Accused was undoubtedly the one to guide and
decide, both as the representative of the German conquerors
and as being the expert in the Solution of the Jewish
Question, who had become famed as such after his feats in
other countries.  The true relationship between the partners
is quite evident from Ferenczy's reports, which were
submitted to us.  Representatives of the Accused were
present in the assembly camps, into which Jews were
collected before deportation, and the deportation plans were
drawn up by joint committees of Hungarian and German
representatives (see, for instance, T/1160, para. 3).  The
Accused claims that his representatives fulfilled only one
function: They were present to exclude Jews of foreign
nationality from these deportations, in accordance with
Veesenmayer's directives (Session 103, Vol. IV, p. xxxx6).
This, also, is a false contention; for this task was kept
for the German Embassy officials themselves (see T/1188, and
von Thadden's report, T/1194, pp. 3, 4).  Finally, we see
who was really in authority, from the report by Ferenczy,
T/1163: "Mishaps" were discovered in one of the camps: The
Hungarian in charge enabled Jewish notables to leave the
camp, etc.  It was therefore decided that German Security
Police units, led by German officers - i.e., the Accused's
men - would in future take over the command within the
camps, as well as the technical arrangements for loading the
Jews on to trains.  The Hungarian gendarmerie were left to
attend only to external security and security within the
camps (supra, pp. 1, 2; see also T/1164, para. 2).
Escorting the trains remained a function carried out by the
Germans all the time, within Hungary as well.  German
Security Police men also prevented Jews from being rescued
from the assembly camps through the call-up for labour
service in Hungary; they arrested Jews who had received such
call-up notices, confiscated their papers and handed them
over to the Accused (T/1161, para. 2; T/1163, para. 8).

From all these details, a true picture emerges of the
Accused's activities in connection with the round-up of Jews
before their deportation, and also of the balance of power
between him and the Hungarians.  It is true that he needed
the help of the Hungarian gendarmerie, because only they
knew the local conditions and had the large amount of
manpower required to carry out these operations.  It is also
true that the gendarmerie remained loyal to Regent Horthy,
and this occasionally made it difficult for the Accused to
carry on his activities when Horthy showed signs of
independence and rebellion against the Germans.  But the
incident of the Kistarcsa train shows that the Accused
succeeded in having his own way, even in the face of an
explicit order from Horthy.

As to the German side, the Accused tried to shift
responsibility in two directions: to Veesenmayer, the Reich
Plenipotentiary and Ambassador, and to Winkelmann, Higher SS
and Police Leader, and to Geschke of the BdS.  Veesenmayer
was undoubtedly very active in Jewish affairs.  For
instance, documents were submitted to us showing that in
April 1944 he conducted negotiations with the Hungarian
authorities for the handing over of 50,000 "Jews for labour"
to the Reich (N/73; T/1181; N/75, and others).  He put
pressure on the Hungarian Government regarding the expulsion
of the Jews of Budapest (declaration by Lakatos, N/106, p.
4).  Obviously, the German Embassy did not engage in the
actual rounding-up and deportation of the Jews.
Veesenmayer's duty in such matters was only to report to his
Foreign Ministry on what had been done.  Generally, reading
between the lines, Ribbentrop's concern is felt about the
fact that Veesenmayer is not sufficiently assertive of his
authority (see, for instance, N/70).  In reply to
instructions couched in this spirit, Veesenmayer cables on
22 April 1944 in reassuring terms that the SD men handling
Jewish affairs (i.e., the Accused's unit) are in continuous
contact with the SD through a special liaison officer.  In
any case, it is clear that the Accused was not dependent on
Veesenmayer in the carrying out of his duties.  Even when it
came to conducting top level negotiations with the Hungarian
authorities, to prepare operations against the Jews, which,
in the nature of things, was Veesenmayer's area of activity,
the Accused frequently acted on his own, while Veesenmayer
only sent in reports (see T/1219; T/1234).

As far as Winkelmann and Geschke are concerned, it seems
that there was some formal connection between the Accused's
Special Operations Unit and the BdS Geschke.  But this
connection was even weaker than that which existed between
the Advisers on Jewish Affairs on behalf of Section IVB4 of
the RSHA in various countries and the BdS in each country.
The position held by the Accused, as head of a Special
Operations Unit, added independence to his status as special
representative of Himmler and of the head of the RSHA,
Kaltenbrunner, as he received his order directly from
Berlin.  In fact, there is no indication in the evidence
that the Accused received any substantive instructions from
Geschke or Winkelmann, except in the evidence given by the
Accused himself, which is not trustworthy in this matter as

We wish to point out that we have reached these conclusions
without having recourse to the evidence of Veesenmayer and
Winkelmann themselves, since for obvious reasons they were
trying to keep themselves as remote as possible from any
connection with actions against Jews, or even from knowledge
of them, and their statements in this matter are unreliable.

From what has been stated above, a clear picture emerges of
the Accused's activities in Hungary.  On the German side,
which was dominant and made the decisions, the Accused was
the chief stimulating force in implementing the Final
Solution in Hungary.  Here, in the field itself, he acted
with increased energy, initiative and daring, and stubborn
determination to complete the work, in spite of all the
difficulties in his way.  The measure of his responsibility
for the catastrophe which befell the Jews of Hungary must be
evaluated accordingly.

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