The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 56
(Part 1 of 4)

Session No. 56

14 Sivan 5721 (29 May 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the fifty-sixth Session of the trial open. We shall complete the evidence of Professor Gilbert. Professor Gilbert, you are still under oath. There are two questions remaining. The one, if I remember correctly, dealt with the statement that had been made by Pohl, or was that the second one?

Witness Gilbert: Yes, Your Honour. I did locate the references to two conversations with Pohl which I believe are not in the printed diary. They are right here. I have marked them with yellow tags.

Q. Is there any mention of the Accused there?

A. In one of them I believe there is. The conversation which refers to Eichmann is dated first and second of June 1946. This must have been a weekend diary entry, and the excerpt is as follows: "He wanted the concentration camps to be left for the enemy to overrun, instead of the constant evacuation to the interior which made more starvation inevitable. But he assured me that he had nothing to do with the extermination of the Jews. Although, of course, every man in the state knew about it. That was not in his department. That was Eichmann and Mueller working under Kaltenbrunner. I told him Kaltenbrunner denied having anything to do with the exterminations. He had said that he, Kaltenbrunner, had said it was Eichmann and Pohl working with Mueller. Pohl assured me very politely that Kaltenbrunner was a liar. He was chief of the RSHA and naturally was in charge of the whole organization." That is the excerpt that is relevant.

Q. Is that the only place where he is mentioned?

A. That is the one I had in mind. There is also another reference to Pohl, and I don't think it mentions Eichmann in particular...

Q. And now, what about the written statement by Pohl?

A. Yes, Your Honour, I have that here too. This is an autobiography, written for me by Oswald Pohl, in his own handwriting, in pencil, also for psychological purposes, and it has some references to the extermination programme, and I have appended an English translation of the document.

Q. Did you receive this material previously, or is it also new to you?

Attorney General: It appears that the witness has a suitcase full of documents which are worthwhile dealing with, but it is in the United States. He has a statement of Hans Frank spreading over one thousand pages and more very rich material - which I would gladly wish to go through.

Presiding Judge: But at the present moment we are dealing with this statement.

Attorney General: No, I have not seen it.

Presiding Judge: I suggest that you submit it now, but in order to enable you to react to it, should it be necessary, we will hand it over after the Session to both parties, and we would request the witness to appear once again tomorrow morning, so that he may reply to your questions on this statement of Pohl. This opportunity has to be given mainly to Defence Counsel.

Attorney General: Certainly, as the Court pleases.

Presiding Judge: Will you be in Jerusalem also tomorrow?

Witness Gilbert: Yes, Your Honour. I'll be in Jerusalem at least another week.

Presiding Judge: In that case, we would ask you to appear here tomorrow morning, after you will have submitted this document, in case one of the parties should still wish to question you further.

I mark the statement of Pohl T/1173.

Does Dr. Servatius still have any questions based upon the questions asked by the judges, and solely in this context?

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no more questions; I would just be grateful if I were permitted to take a brief look at the diaries, to learn about their general form.

Presiding Judge: Does the Attorney General have any more questions?

Attorney General: No.

Presiding Judge: The diaries will therefore also be at the disposal of both parties after this session, so that, should anything further arise in this connection, it can be dealt with tomorrow morning.

Attorney General: Professor Gilbert, your testimony is concluded. But I request that you be so kind as to be present in Court tomorrow.

We now return to the subject of Hungary; I call as witness Mr. Joel Brand.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your name?

Witness: Joel Brand.

Presiding Judge: You may sit down, if you wish. Please answer the Attorney General's questions.

Attorney General: Mr. Brand, where do you live?

Witness Brand: I live at 4 Wedgwood Street, Yad Eliahu, Tel Aviv.

Q. Do you wish to testify in Hebrew?

A. No, it is too difficult; I would prefer to testify in German.

Q. Where were you born?

A. In Naszod, in Siebenbuergen (Transylvania).

Q. Did you grow up in Germany?

A. Yes, I grew up in Germany.

Q. Did you leave Germany in the year 1934 and go to Hungary?

A. Yes, in 1934.

Q. Did you take up residence in Budapest and intend to go to Palestine?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you at Hachshara and generally active in Jewish life?

A. Yes.

Q. What was your occupation in Budapest?

A. At first, I underwent Hachshara. Subsequently we - that is, my wife and I - established a knitwear factory which was successful.

Q. Were you one of the directors of the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund)?

A. I was a member of its governing body.

Q. And were you also an assistant director of the Palestine Office in Budapest?

A. Yes, I was one of the vice-presidents of the Budapest Palestine Office.

Q. Then, after the outbreak of the Second World War, did you engage in helping and rescuing refugees?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember what happened in the year 1941, when Jews were expelled from Hungary to Poland?

A. Yes; suddenly, practically overnight, tens of thousands of Jews were arrested within a few days, transferred to a transit camp, and expelled to Poland.

Q. Were your sister-in-law and her husband among them?

A. Yes, among them were my sister-in-law - that is, my wife's sister - and her husband.

Q. What was the destination of the deportees?

A. At first we did not know. My wife succeeded in speaking with them in the transit camp the morning after the arrest. Deportation then followed immediately. My wife gave me no peace. She neither let me sleep nor eat; I had to see to it that her sister and brother-in-law were brought back. We had an acquaintance, an officer in the Hungarian counter- espionage service named Joszi Krem. This Joszi Krem was a light-minded chap. He always needed money. He gambled, he drank, and did everything of this kind. He always needed money. I surprised him with an offer to pay him 10,000 pengoes if he brought back my sister-in-law and brother-in- law. This was a large sum for him; the average salary at that time was...

Q. That is not so important; let us move on. In any case, you became acquainted with Krem.

A. Yes. Krem accepted the assignment and went off. He told us at that time that the Hungarian Jews, or the allegedly stateless Hungarian Jews - I emphasize allegedly - were deported to the Ukraine, to the Stry and Kamenets-Podolski region. He went with his automobile to fetch them. I had only a photograph to give him. But when he returned from there the first time, he had not found my relatives. He was, however, clever or dexterous enough to bring back with him other Hungarian Jews who had been deported there. They had also promised him a lot of money. These Jews told us for the first time clearly about the mass shootings and about the horrors, so that we understood that this was a systematic operation. We had already heard previously that this was a systematic operation, but up to this point had not really believed it.

Q. The Zionist party to which you belonged thereupon decided to create a Relief and Rescue Committee, is that so?

A. Yes, my party, Po'alei Zion (Labour Zionists) decided upon this.

Q. Who led the Relief and Rescue Committee, and what actions did it take?

A. There were three leaders. One was Dr. Rezsoe Kasztner; he directed the, let us say, political department. Above all, he had the task of maintaining liaison with the other Zionist parties, non-Zionist parties, and also, naturally, non-Jewish opposition parties.

Q. Who else was on the committee?

A. Second was Samu (Samuel) Springmann who was responsible for establishing lines of communication. He was able to form connections with Hungarian - and later German - counter- espionage agents, which was a department of the army. These agents took our letters and reports to Turkey and Switzerland, and brought back letters, instructions and money. We transmitted a great part of the money to the various ghettos and concentration camps in German-occupied territories. That was Samu's work.

Q. Were you the third member, Mr. Brand?

A. Yes. I was responsible for rescue work, in other words, for bringing Jews from all possible regions of the East to Hungary, which at that time was still relatively safe for Jews. I didn't do this alone; I established a Vaadat Tiyul.

Q. Vaadat Tiyul?

A. Vaadat Tiyul* {*Hebrew: Touring Committee} that is to say, across the border. Almost ninety-five per cent were halutzim (pioneers) who worked together with me. But the group was organized on a geographical rather than party basis. It included Peretz Revesz, Josko Baumer, Rafi Friedl, and one or two others from Slovakia, Shaya Radsprecher and Fritz Knoll from the Ukraine, Josef Komanski, Zvi Goldfarb and Hannele from Poland, from Warsaw, etc. There was also Leon Blatt from Upper Silesia, etc., etc. We were trying to bring Jews to Hungary by every means.

Presiding Judge: By every means...

Attorney General: Did you co-operate with the Zionist Organization, with Dr. Komoly?

Witness Brand: Yes. This committee was taken over by the Zionist Organization. It was resolved that the chief task of Zionism at this time was not raising money for the Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod, but rather the saving of Jewish lives. The work of both funds was also promoted. The president of the Zionist Organization, the engineer Otto Komoly, assumed leadership of the committee.

Q. How many Jews were you able to bring to Hungary from 1941 to March, 1944?

A. By direct and indirect means, we brought between 22,000 and 25,000 to Hungary. These had - excuse me for perhaps adding this - to be provided with false papers. They had to be given illegal housing; they had to be clothed and given money. We were always hampered in regard to the latter, because we never had enough money...

Q. When did you first hear the name Adolf Eichmann?

A. I cannot give a precise date. But it was quite early, since we were always getting reports from the hundreds and thousands of refugees who were coming. We had a sort of questionnaire - there was a poet, a certain Hermann Adler now living in Switzerland who was in charge of this department - he would ask people: Where are you from originally? To which ghetto did you go? How many people were in the ghetto when you arrived? Who were the commandants there? Who perhaps can be bribed?

Q. Let us be more brief. And so he conducted these inquiries...

A. Consequently, we had a rather precise picture, I would say a blueprint - hence a plan of what was taking place in general in Europe in Nazi-occupied territories. And along with this, we also knew of the role of Adolf Eichmann, but it is difficult for me to specify the exact date.

Q. Did you have contact with a Gisi Fleischmann?

A. We had rather close contact, since the Slovakian group among the refugees in Budapest was a very efficient and very active group, and Gisi Fleischmann was the person - so we knew exactly what was going on in Slovakia, and we forwarded the mail from Gisi Fleischmann to Turkey and Switzerland. Gisi Fleischmann visited us on one occasion; I met her twice and discussed the problems, etc. with her.

Q. How did the entry of the Germans into Hungary on 19 March 1944, affect your situation?

A. I was not living in my own home on that day; it required fumigation in order to remove bedbugs and lice, since so many strangers were always coming.

Presiding Judge: Let's not digress.

Witness Brand: Thus that day I was staying at the Majestic Hotel, to which Eichmann came later. My wife had just gone out with the children at 9 o'clock in the morning. Three German army agents came and informed me that Budapest would be occupied by the Nazis that morning, that I was on an arrest list of the Eichmann Detachment, and that they had to take me with them immediately, as if in protective custody. Nothing would happen to me, but I had to get away, otherwise I would fall into the hands of the Eichmann Detachment and everything would be lost.

Attorney General: Do you know which unit of the German army took you into custody?

Witness Brand: Yes, German a Counter-Intelligence, Army Counter-Espionage; they were known as the Canaris Group.

Q. Was there a man named Schmidt?

A. Yes, a man who called himself Dr. Schmidt. Subsequently I found out that his real name is Gefrorener; he was the leader of this department.

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