The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 5
(Part 4 of 6)

Q. During the negotiations concerning the departure of a million Jews in consideration of the supply of materiel, did Eichmann not often tell you that superior orders made the deportations a continuous process, but that he was at that point endeavouring to stop the deportations by means of the proposed deal?

A. No, not in the way you have framed the question, Sir. If I may be permitted to reply to the question properly, it should be noted that Krumey was said to have told Wisliceny that they had supported what we were asking, both before Eichmann, who was responsible for Jewish matters in all territories of the Reich, and in Berlin; and if we could propose a plan for the emigration of all Jews, the prospects would be favourable. Eichmann never said to me that he wanted no deportations, that he wanted to rescue the Jews; his words, as previously cited by me, were: "I have had you investigated and have determined that you are still capable of getting things done. I am prepared to sell you a million Jews - goods for blood, blood for goods." Elsewhere he told me that he had received permission from the highest of his superiors to conduct these negotiations. I do not recall whether he said he had received "permission" or an "order" or something of this sort, but Eichmann never said to me that it was his wish to stop the deportations.

Q. Do you wish to say that this entire plan originated with Wisliceny and Krumey?

A. No, but certainly not with Eichmann.

Q. Why was Eichmann then in such haste, even setting so short a time for your journey abroad?

A. Precisely to make things more difficult, to demand the impossible. How could a million people be evacuated in eight days, in fourteen days, in order to consummate such a deal?

Presiding Judge: Mr. Brand, speak more softly; you are giving testimony here and nothing more.

Dr. Servatius: Was delivery to be made, then, within fourteen days?

Witness Brand: He said that if I returned within eight to fourteen days, he would immediately deliver the first hundred thousand to a neutral country - the idea was first and foremost to Spain - and would also blow up the installations.

Q. And what had to be done on your part within that time? Were you merely to return, or were you supposed to be able to make a firm offer for delivery?

A. I had to offer thereafter at once a confirmed delivery.

Q. Would that have meant, therefore, the delivery of ten thousand trucks in Budapest?

A. No, one thousand trucks, ten per cent, and not in Budapest, but at a neutral border.

Q. Mr. Brand, a book by Weissberg entitled The Story of Joel Brand has been published. Is the account that appears there of events correct?

A. This - I regard it as my book - is correct, with the exception of a few minor errors. For example, I wrote that my grandfather had seven sons; he only had six - in other words, minor errors of this sort.

Q. Let us not digress from what I asked you.

A. As far as political questions are concerned, it is correct, absolutely correct; a name was once misprinted, Hunsche instead of Novak, or vice versa, I am not sure.

Presiding Judge: Did the witness say that the book is his? Did he give the material to the author? Or how are we to understand it?

Witness Brand: I wrote the book here, in Tel Aviv, for the Ayanot Publishers. I had difficulties with publication, because Ayanot had the sole world rights to print the book. So I went to Europe, where I worked in collaboration with Alex Weissberg and had the book published under his name. I would say that Mr. Weissberg improved it considerably from the stylistic point of view. But I consider one hundred per cent of the book's structure and content to be mine, taken from my manuscript. That is why I regard it as my book. Subsequently, it was also published here, under my name.

Dr. Servatius: Is it not stated in this book more than once that it would have sufficed if only notification had been made that the matter was being explored. Deliveries, of course, could not yet be made, but at least there could have been a declaration: We are exploring the matter, and we will do everything possible. Was this not a sufficient basis for the immediate departure of the one hundred thousand, thereby gaining time, as you say in your book, and, through this gain in time, the achievement in practice of an end to all the deportations. Is not that what your book says?

Witness Brand: Not in the way that you, Counsel for the Defence, have stated it. If you wish to quote my exact words, the book is here; I invite you to check it. Essentially, many complaints, my complaints about the handling of this affair are contained in this book.

Q. Did I understand you correctly yesterday, that you said that Eichmann had explained to you that haste was required, because he could only delay this evacuation for about a fortnight, he could divert the people somewhere for fourteen days only, perhaps to Austria, and therefore you had to hurry, since otherwise his superiors would get after him; he could not delay things longer.

A. When he told me that on that very day he was beginning the deportations, and that consequently I should set out on my journey immediately, I said it was a catastrophe. No one in a neutral country would believe me that his offer was a serious one when, at the very same time, he was commencing with the deportations. He said that he had to start them, not because...He said simply: "I am starting today." But he made a promise - and unfortunately he did not keep it - that he would not be sending the people directly to Auschwitz, he would delay them initially either in Czechoslovakia or Vienna for two weeks. He could not, however, keep them there for a longer period, he could not, he said, "put them on ice." And the aged and the children would have to be sent off; the youthful and healthy could perhaps be put to work. But unfortunately, he did not keep his word. He sent me away with false statements, he deported the people immediately to Auschwitz.

Q. Didn't you say yesterday, at the beginning of your testimony, that Eichmann had told you that you could have a million, choosing whomever you wished - old people, children or women. Doesn't that contradict your statement later on in the proceedings?

A. I see no contradiction. And if there is a contradiction, it is Eichmann's.

Q. You spoke yesterday about the cold and hideous proposal to exchange one hundred thousand [Jews], or rather a million, for goods. Was this proposal, with its ten per cent proviso, a solid and businesslike proposal from Eichmann's standpoint?

Presiding Judge: I assume that this question is meant to be ironic; otherwise it is beyond my comprehension.

Dr. Servatius: Yes; the witness said it was a coldly calculated affair, and I want to know from him whether it was a sober proposal, made in cold blood, to offer someone ten per cent commercially in advance, before anything is supplied in return.

Witness Brand: Yes, it was a hideous proposal as far as I was concerned. He destroyed my life. Eichmann put a million human beings on my back, most of whom, I am sorry to say, were murdered by him. On the other hand, however, it was incumbent upon me, or on us - I am not speaking only of myself - to clutch at a straw, if we saw a possibility of saving human lives. Yes, that last offer of his to give ten per cent in advance - he certainly promised to release the people and to blow up the installations in Auschwitz. Yes, that was perhaps the basis for beginning the rescue of our people.

Q. Did you write in your book, when you came away from this discussion: "This is the turning point." Therefore, were you not using an expression indicative of happy satisfaction?

A. I don't know my book by heart. I'm not sure whether I used the term "turning point" or "deliverance." But, in fact, this is what I am saying. When the proposal was made to me, the proposal concerning the supply in advance of one hundred thousand and the demolition of the gas chambers, what was I supposed to say? That fate had chosen me for such a mission, that I had such a chance. Whether I said deliverance or turning point, I do not know.

Dr. Servatius: May I perhaps cite the number of the page from which my quotation was taken? It was page 127.

Mr. Brand, you have previously testified that the transport of six hundred persons suggested by Kasztner was increased to eight hundred by Eichmann on his own initiative. Is that correct?

Witness Brand: Yes, he used the number eight hundred. At the first discussion with Wisliceny and Krumey, we spoke of six hundred persons. It is possible that other figures also came up. But he certainly specified a larger number than we did.

Q. Was this a good omen, namely that with his big proposal he had a favourable solution in mind?

A. I didn't regard it as either a good or a bad omen. The promise had already been given, and I was inclined to think that he did not know the precise number we had asked for and was merely throwing a figure at me.

Q. Mr. Brand, you said that about one hundred thousand dollars and, I believe, seventy thousand Swiss francs and a batch of letters were given to you in Eichmann's office...

Presiding Judge: The witness said two hundred and seventy thousand Swiss francs.

Witness Brand: Yes, I received a package full of letters in Eichmann's office.

Dr. Servatius: You were of the opinion that that could have been a trap?

Presiding Judge: I did not understand from the testimony of the witness - to make it brief - that that was supposed to be a trap; but the intention was to create the impression that the proposal being made was serious and practicable. That is my understanding of the testimony.

Judge Halevi: But he also said that he was on tenterhooks, so he said.

Witness Brand: I believe I described that in my book: Initially, it seemed very ominous to me to receive from Eichmann this sum of money and a packet of letters, which he said he had not read. Then, when I went to the committee and we opened the letters, I was sure it was a trap, because among them were letters which were awful: We got letters from Switzerland which said we were to conspire with this or that Hungarian politician and organize an uprising...

Dr. Servatius: Mr. Brand, you have already described that...

Witness Brand: In my book, yes, but not here...

Presiding Judge: All right, you probably know more than I, having read the book; I have not done so, I have only heard the testimony.

Dr. Servatius: Mr. Brand, did you not say that Eichmann had passed on the money and those letters apparently under pressure from the counter-espionage officers?

Witness Brand: Yes, I said that.

Q. Doesn't this indicate that Eichmann was not all-powerful, that counter-intelligence personnel were even more powerful, even though they belonged to the Canaris Group which, as you testified, was hostile to the SS.

A. May I correct you, Sir; they were not from the Canaris Group, but rather from Klages' people, and therefore from SS counter-intelligence, which stood in sharpest opposition to the Canaris Group. Subsequently they even executed the leader of the Canaris Group.

Presiding Judge: Please come to the point as soon as possible.

Witness Brand: I never said that Eichmann was all-powerful in the Nazi apparatus; at most I said that Eichmann was the murderer-in-chief of the Nazi murder department.

Dr. Servatius: Between the first discussion, in which the offer came up, and the second, in which its terms were specified, was not Eichmann repeatedly in Berlin, in order to secure the approval of his superiors?

Witness Brand: He told me that he had gone to Berlin and returned that night; he got the endorsement of his superiors in Berlin, and then he specified the type of goods he wanted.

Q. Thank you. You said that Obersturmbannfuehrer Becher was present in civilian clothing at the first discussion. Was he also present at the second discussion?

A. He was there at the first discussion. I can't recall whether Becher was also there at the second discussion, but he was again present at subsequent discussions.

Q. Did Becher participate in the negotiations, and what did he say?

A. Never during any negotiations with Eichmann did any of the officers present interject a word in my presence.

Q. What was SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Becher doing in Budapest?

A. He robbed the property of Hungarian Jews. Later on, we made use of him and were also able to rescue Jews through his help.

Q. Was he tough in regard to these property matters, or was he an accommodating, friendly man?

A. He confiscated, he took property away, he negotiated and allowed people to give him money voluntarily for promises. He became a rich man, a very rich man.

Q. Didn't he appear in order to increase the returns from supplemental deals, like the one for seventeen hundred people from Belsen and others? Wasn't he a man with a flair for economic values who demanded as much money as possible?

A. As far as I know, he had this role. But by that time I was no longer in Budapest. Kasztner increased the number of people rescued in this connection from six hundred to seventeen hundred, not me. I know it...

Q. Did you speak with Mr. Becher after the War?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did you meet him?

A. I made inquiries, and, after numerous telephone calls and telegrams, I located him in Bremen where I spoke with him frequently and at considerable length. I even boarded a plane with him when I heard that he wanted to get away from me. I then also spoke with him in Paris.

Q. Did you speak to him about the book you wanted to publish?

A. I wanted to know his point of view. I gave a list of about a hundred questions. There may have been a hundred and ten questions; I still have the original list. Of these hundred to one hundred and ten questions, he answered perhaps about a dozen for me. I still have the questions and his answers. He did not wish to answer the remaining questions or, as far as part of them were concerned, he wanted to give me his replies later on; I have not yet received them.

Q. In your book, doesn't SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Becher appear in a very favourable light?

A. That is a matter of taste; in my view this is not the case, since I wrote that he had been robbing.

Q. Do you know Mr. Alois Steger?

A. Yes, I know Mr. Alois Steger.

Q. What role did he play?

A. Alois Steger was a very decent human being who helped us a lot; he saved people. At the same time, he was a businessman, though I do not wish to say that he was rescuing and helping in order to do business. But he was a businessman. I believe that at present he is no longer entirely all right, perhaps because of the heavy blows of fate which he had to suffer later.

Q. Have you spoken with him since the end of the War?

A. Yes, I spoke with him often since the end of the War. But ultimately it became very difficult to talk with him, because I could no longer take him seriously.

Q. Did he not say that his adversity resulted from his having made use of his fortune for the sake of rescuing Jews and supplying trucks which could not be paid for?

A. Steger helped us Jews; now he is demanding more than one hundred million dollars which we owe him.

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